Desert vegetable garden

A first time blogger, on a first time blog!!  Well, as much as this is open for comment, this is mostly for my benefit and consumption. Primarily, the blog is intended to be about my garden /ing efforts.  Strange time for getting into blogging about a garden, when it is nearly fall. But it is time to record what I’ve learned and make notes for the future.

Here in the foothills of the Arizona mountains, we get to enjoy all four seasons.  In a world where a growing season is determined by not just the highs and lows, but the first and last frost dates, we fail to qualify!   Starting with our frost dates; officially the 15th of May for the last, and the 15th of October for the first.  Have seen temps over 100 by early May though. and this year, there was a light frost late in the month.  On the other end of the growing season, there have been hard frosts in mid-October, even snow!  Then there have been 90 degree days.

That being said, we should have a good solid 5 month growing season.  Not so.  It would seem, that while many plant varieties are listed by the maximum cold they will endure, there is actually a maximum heat too!  and we can go well over it for part of the season.

So a summer like this one, which really only got into gear in early June, was already into the ‘too hot to trot’ by July.  Tomatoes, peppers, squash; no flowers, no fertilization, no ripening of fruits on the vine.  Everything just sat.  It wasn’t until we finally got some rains and cooler weather that there was new growth happening.  And then its like starting anew!  Lots of plant growth, before the fruiting flowers come.  By that time it was hot again.  Now it has cooled, but its nearly the beginning of September and none of the squash is taking fertilization.  And will the tomatoes have time to ripen before the cool weather is upon us again? So pretty much lost July and August from the growing season.

So now I know, it is use any and all means to extend the garden season.  Greenhouse grow lettuce and peas, chard and spinach.  As soon as it is nominally warm days (we get 30-40 degree difference between highs and lows during the clear, dry weather season), get those wall-o-water’s up. Get the hoops and row covers going.  If its a warm winter, make sure that there are seedlings ready to go into the ground as soon as possible.  Then. when the heat comes on. let it rest.  get my fall seedlings started ready to go into the ground for September and October harvests. And start another set for growing in the greenhouse during the winter months.  Wall-o-Waters and row covers will probably let me keep those cool weather greens out in the garden all winter.  But this year, want to turn the garden soil (these are enclosed beds in the hard sandstone dirt) and get some fresh compost out there.

And on the subject of compost, by selectively choosing my neighbors, have been gathering their kitchen scraps into my bins.  Has more than trippled what we could have done on our own!!

Better choices in seeds for next year is in order.  Going to start saving mine to be sure those that do well this year are what I’m growing next.  Tomatoes were my big project this year, wanted to be self-sufficient in tomato products, but they haven’t done as well as I’d hoped. Last year the Romas were already finished and gone. This year, they are ripening slowly, STILL!!  So am drying them instead and will chop them and mix them with garlic and herb oils for use in the winter.

Peas have only done welll in the greenhouse. Never in the garden.  THis year, planted an early lot of pole beans in the greenhouse, then bush beans in the garden. Now have pole beans in the greenhouse again.  A few years ago lost my entire harvest of pole beans in the garden to an early, unexpected, wasn’t home, frost!

Oh yeah, used grow bags for the first time this year and found they aren’t really suited for the arizona summer sun!! Great idea and their square shape let me put up a “bed” of them. but within a few months the handles are falling off the material has gotten weak enough to tear easily. On the other hand, they allowed me to grow comfrey without fear of it spreading.  I can pull out much of the root this fall for herbal use, and still have enough left to start another lot for next year.  The potato grow bags were fabulous. different material and seemed to have held up well. But the ones growing in the greenhouse did better than those outside. Some kind of white ant got into those and chewed into the taters! 

And this year, there will be a rain barrel in the greenhouse.  As strange as that sounds, my roof vent window leaks and with a careful arrangement of catchers, can harvest a good deal of water in there. It takes up about 1/2 my table though, so this year, going to make some gutter arrangement which can then go directly into the rain barrel and be used thru the season.  That will leave me with some work space as well as growing space.

So that’s my first blog.  Am not giving up on my paper and pen journal, but this is a good place to just blather on about the generalities of what’s happening in the garden.

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