It took a few weeks, but I managed to get all the plants and seeds planted in the garden (gardens, actually). I’ve been gardening for almost 20 years now, and each year brings new challenges and learning experiences. Back in Ohio I had to deal with cold, wet spring weather and heavy clay soil. Here in Arizona it’s the intense spring winds that have probably been my biggest issue.
We had a warmer than usual winter and spring seemed to come earlier than normal (although I’m still figuring out exactly what’s “normal” for Arizona), so I started the seeds in the greenhouse a few weeks sooner than Sal normally would have. Unfortunately I didn’t have his help this year because he was so incredibly busy at work. Things took a little longer to accomplish, but I still managed to get it all done. Actually, having his help last year was a new experience for me since I’ve always done all the gardening on my own.
I’ve already decided to do some things differently next year based on some of the problems I had this year. Sal has always used a combination of garden soil and compost to start seeds in, which is what I did as well this year. However, it seems that the cucumbers had Fusarium Wilt ( a disease that remains in the soil) and all of my cucumber seedlings died. Next year I plan on using sterile seed starting mix for all of the seeds, as well as plating resistant varieties of cukes. I did rotate the crops this year and planted more cucumber seeds directly into the garden. Hopefully these will fare better than the first batch. Last year we lost quite a few plants due to wind and sun burn and the fact that we forgot to properly harden the plants off before setting them in the ground. This year I made sure to harden off the plants (exposing them to the sun and wind slowly increasing their time outdoors) for at least a week before planting. So far most of the transplants seem to be doing fairly well.
In the first picture you can see where I planted the carrots and onions, and further back the eggplant and peppers. I think I’ll start the carrots and onions a little earlier next year since they can handle cooler temperatures and still sprout reliably. To maximize the use of space I planted lettuce seeds between the rows of onions. I think this will work out pretty well, although I’ve never done it before. The carrots and lettuce seeds are already starting to sprout, no more than a week after planting, so that’s a good sign. Another change I need to make is to thin the carrots more aggressively. Last year there were too many, too close together and the result was a reduced harvest and smaller carrots overall. I make mistakes, but I do try and learn from them. Last year WAS the first year I’ve grown carrots, so I’m still learning how to get it right.
I started new eggplant and pepper seeds in the garden (most of the ones I started in the greenhouse didn’t do well- more issues with the soil, I think) and covered them with Wall O’ Waters to help keep them warm and moist and protect them from the wind. These seeds are always slow to sprout, so I’m just trying to be patient. I’ve got some surviving pepper plants in the greenhouse too. I want to wait until they get a bit bigger before transplanting them into the garden.
I also have some cantaloupe and muskmelon seeds and plants in the garden, all covered with glass or plastic cloches to help keep them warm and protect them from the wind. I love cantaloupe, and although I’ve never had it, I’ve heard muskmelon is just as good, if not better. I’m really hoping these will do well and produce lots of fruit.
Down the center of the garden I have the butternut squash which I’ll train up onto the trellis as they grow. we did it like that last year and it was so much easier than having the plants trail on the ground. Whenever possible I like to grow vines and trailing plants up on trellises. It takes up less space and the fruits and vegetables seem to be less likely to get damaged.
I also have beets, zucchini, yellow squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, more lettuce, and yellow and green bush beans planted. As the zucchini and yellow squash get bigger I’ll put tomato cages over them for them climb up and keep the veggies off the ground. That worked pretty well last year and is so much easier then trying to tie the plants to stakes. The tomatoes are also grown on a trellis and I weave the stems through the openings as the plant is growing so I really don’t need to tie them at all. I created a wind barrier using a floating row cover over the trellis to help shield the young plants from the intense winds (and to keep the straw mulch from blowing away).
And that’s just the big garden! We also have two smaller herb gardens with parsley, cilantro, chives, scallions, basil, and fennel, as well a a salad garden with more lettuce, broccoli raab, Swiss chard, jalapeno and Hungarian wax peppers. And throughout all the gardens I’ve planted flowers like marigolds and nasturtium, not only because they’re pretty, but because they help repel insects.
At this time of year I’m pretty focused on the garden, spending most of my time outside tending the flowers, fruits, and vegetables. These make up a large part of our diet, so it’s important that the gardens do well and produce what we need not only for the spring, summer, and fall, but right through winter. I blanch and freeze whatever we don’t eat fresh and we’ve got a root cellar to store the root crops. And of course everything is raised organically- no chemicals here! The chickens are kind enough to supply us with plenty of fertilizer, as are the neighbor’s horses. Weed control is 100% manual, and pest control is done by hand picking the insects or using one of the many organic recipes I have (often using garlic, hot peppers, or onions along with Neem oil to create a bug killing or repelling spray).
So if you don’t see me online too much over the next few months you know I’m out in the garden, tending the plants. :)