GrowingWhat to think about, watch for, plan for, and do…
Plan for your spring garden by taking some time to think about what you are going to do this year. Consider what worked last year and what didn’t do so well. Design your garden; there are some really good seed and garden catalogs for ideas. Order seeds, clean your seed starting trays and start cole crops by seed for transplanting in the garden.
If you mulched and added organic material to your garden in the fall it should be ready for spring planting as soon as weather permits. For winter gardeners – watch for over wintering aphids in your cabbage, broccoli and other winter veggies and trim plants as necessary to maintain healthy veggies.
Remove, as needed, your winter veggies that have finished producing and will go to seed this year. Prepare garden soil for summer planting by adding more organic material and schedule tilling if your garden was not tilled in the fall. Research and prepare to start your summer veggies if you are going to grow your own summer veggies for transplanting.
The planting season begins. Garden opens on Saturdays for spring planting of cool weather crops such as: lettuce, spinach, chard, peas, cabbage, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, bok choy, onions, parsley, parsnips, radishes, spinach, or turnips. For summer veggies start your seeds for tomatoes, peppers, eggplants etc. Plan to use covers on your garden to protect from bugs and cold temperatures. Remember the garden may be a much as 10 degrees cooler than the weather guesser predicts.
Begin summer planting – but use caution and plan on serious protection for your frost tender plants. The last frost date is approximately Mother’s Day – but it can happen after that date. Cool soil and cool nights hamper heat loving summer plants so be aware of air temperatures and soil temperatures before you plant tomatoes, peppers or eggplant to name just a few. Research ways to warm your soil and the air—covering with frost cloth and putting containers of water under the frost cloth will help to moderate the night time temperatures. Plants do not grow when their feet are cold and seeds just rot! A little patience goes a long way, in achieving big rewards with your summer veggies, if you wait until the temperatures are right for the planting you plan to do. Be aware of spring breezes that bring unwanted insects, use covers to prevent egg-laying as well as controlling chilly temperatures and strong spring “breezes”.
Modify or add covers as appropriate to the veggies you are growing as the season moves along. Covers serve a myriad of purposes – protection for newly planted seeds from wind, birds, water, rain, hail or snow, etc. Covers provide wind breaks for transplants and curtail insect invasions. Covers create warm growing environments for young plants on cool nights and also provide shade to plants that need just a little protection from hot Arizona days.
Install your cages, fences, trellises or other low structures before your plants need them. Reminder: please keep your structures under the four foot height. Tall structures shade gardens on either side of a plot.
Plants are growing; the automatic water system is on. Practice diligence during the first few weeks of watering with the automatic system. Check hoses, connections and general water distribution for your system. Hand watering is appropriate for new transplants or newly planted seeds. The automatic system is more than adequate to meet the needs of your garden. Mulch your plants to retain water and keep the soil temperature consistent.
Install systems for veggies that can be grown up on a structure ie: fence, cages, trellis etc. Analyze your plants, prune when needed, and watch for signs of insects, nutrient deficiencies or other problems. Pull weeds if necessary.
The weather is warming up and your summer plants are really starting to thrive. You have been getting harvests from your spring veggies and maybe from some summer veggies, like zucchini. However if you have remaining cool season veggies they are beginning to suffer. Check your totem, plant stakes, or notebook to see when they were planted and how close, or how far past, they are to their maturation date. Lettuce, spinach, chard and other cool crops will bolt in hot weather. Bolting means the plants are setting seeds for next year. When this happens it generally means the veggie is past its prime for eating and may be bitter or tough. This is the time to pull them and plant other summer veggies or a second sowing of an already planted veggie like beans.
Continue mulching your garden to conserve moisture and an even soil temperature and plant temperament. Happy feet (roots) make a happy plant. Don’t take the benefits of mulching lightly – it will reward you big time in the long run.
Practice good “grooming” techniques on your veggies. Train them to their trellises, remove diseased leaves, groom low to the ground leaves to provide better air circulation and disease prevention and remove hiding places for bugs and critters.
Monsoon rains are here or at least the humidity, and this is the time to watch for mildew and other fungus diseases. Squash bugs are also prevalent in the garden unless you have been very observant and got those little eggs with our favorite “duct tape” egg remover technique. Watch your watering system for any malfunctions. Watering is probably happening 4 times a week now to combat the heat. Remember to harvest on a regular basis – if you have more than you can use, donate it to the food banks. Harvest veggies at their peak – don’t wait till it gets bigger. In the case of veggies – bigger is not better! There is more nutrition, more flavor and more enjoyment in a properly harvested veggie from you garden. The more you pick the more the plant will produce. Fertilize if necessary.
It’s hard to believe, at over 90 degrees during the day – that this is also the time to start your fall garden! From August 1 thru the middle of September transplant fall veggies or plant seeds such as: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, Swiss Chard, bok choy, lettuce, onions, parsnips, peas, radishes, spinach and turnips. Check the maturation time for these veggies and plant accordingly so that they will mature in time to harvest before the usual expected from in mid to late October. If you are “winter gardening” know the requirements of the plants for winter growing.
Fall is here and there is a slight change in the garden. This is the time to seriously clean up summer plants. Perhaps add some fast growing fall crops or begin adding soil amendments to your garden in preparation for the end of this season. Make notes now for next season, what went well this year, what didn’t do so well, what do you want to do next season. You know the “next year I am going to do things differently” we all say during the current year.
Finish harvesting your garden, clean up all garden debris, remove hoses and decorations. The garden closes October 31 st.
Sign up for a winter garden. A winter gardener is anyone who is planning on growing veggies over the winter, or anyone who wishes to improve the soil in their garden or build a raised bed etc. Winter hours are Saturday only – 9am to Noon.
Winter gardeners – Tend your winter plants, plant perennial vegetables—use those covers, improve your soil, construct raised beds or other improvements and begin planning for next year’s garden.
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!
Winter gardeners: visit your gardens—you will be surprised at what’s going on in your garden under the covers!