Friday, March 31, 2017

Why your garden is different than mine #1

One of the biggest things that tends to upset a new gardener is the lack of production after all the work they have put into their vegetables.  I always urge new gardeners, even just new to the area gardeners, keep a journal.  Perfection won't happen the first year.  Practice make perfect. 

1. Write down everything you do

a.  When did you plant
b.  What seeds did you use or plants did you buy or did you start your own
c.  What did you do to the soil to prep?  Bone meal, Blood meal, mulch?
d.  Any odd weather during the season
     *95 degrees in March!
     *rained 2 inches in May
     these things will change a growing season quickly and have a definite effect on your garden.
e.  What fertilizers did you try?  Make sure to note the rate of application and if it was a soil  
     drench, foliar feed, granular, slow release etc.
f.   Success rate- how much produce did you produce!

2.  Where your garden is located changes EVERYTHING

a.  Do you get morning sun and afternoon shade?  You will plant a little later in the Spring to allow to
     warm up but you will probably harvest later into the summer since your plants will be a protected.
b.  Are you gardening out in the middle of a wide open area?  You won't get the protection from
     the block walls most of us have but you also won't have to worry about the heat the same walls
     collect all day and radiate out.  This could be a detriment too since you won't have the walls to
     store the heat during the day and radiate it out overnight to protect from frost at night in the
c.  Do you have huge trees next to your garden?  There are some species that will suck any and all
     moisture out of your soil everyday.  Sissoo trees are fast growing monsters that will crack concrete
     and absorb almost all the water you can pour into the soil.  Good shade, best away from
     everything else.
d.  Are you out on the edges of the valley?  I've noticed since I have moved out to Queen Creek the
     nights are a lot cooler than up in Mesa.  Frosts occur much more often on the outskirts but cooler
     nights will help out a lot when the late Spring temps start to creep up. 

3.  Watering

     When you go to plant your garden you will have to keep seedlings and seedbeds more damp.  As the plants start to take hold you will want to do a more deeper and thorough watering and let the soil dry out a little in between watering.  We have a very alkaline soil and water here in the valley and you will notice the edges and tips of the leaves getting brown if you aren't doing a "deep watering" to push those salts away from the roots that were left there from the previous watering.  It will also help your plants chase the water deeper into the soil, and healthy roots will have a direct effect on the health of the plant above.


Seed Chart for Southwest Gardens

Here is a great chart that I use as a guideline for planting vegetable seeds in the valley.  Its only a guideline, things change and temperatures are different and where you put your garden is different than where I have mine.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Watering guides

Here is a general guide for watering in AZ.  We have really dense soil that can retain a lot of moisture for quite some time.  It just takes a long time to soak in deeply to where you want it! I like using my drip system on the trees and bushes for a few hours once a week in the summer and every two to there weeks in the winter, unless we get a nice long gentle rain that soaks in, then I skip a watering.

Our desert soil is designed to hold the little bit of rain we do get so many of us water too often and too lightly when we do.  By not doing a deep watering with our alkaline soil and water we start to build up the salts around the plant and you will see burning of the leaves on the tips and edges.  Think of the farmers and orchards doing their flood irrigation, long deep waters but a lot less frequently. 

Now you can't just go out and turn the drip system to a dramatically different schedule, you have trained these plants to survive the best they can on the watering you have been giving them.  You will have to wean them down in frequency and at the same time increase the amount of water.

I always hand water the gardens and flower beds because it will just be too difficult to get a schedule down precisely for the many different plants I grow.  Sometimes the corn on the one end will need more water and the tomatoes on the other end a lot less.  Just easier to go out and water what needs it in these spots.

Sauerkraut Recipe

20 lbs Cabbage
3/4 C Canning/Pickling Salt

Clean outer leaves off and shred cabbage about 1/8-1/16 inch shred
Mix in large bowl with some of  the salt as you shred let stand for a while to let cabbage wilt a little bit before packing into large crock.  I use a Gartopf crock that allows me to have a ring of water around the lid but any large crock will work, you will have to cover the cabbage with a muslin or cheesecloth and weigh it down.  You want a layer of brine above the cabbage, if you don't have enough juice 1 1/2 tablespoons salt in a quart of water works.

Place in cool area and check daily for any scum and remove it.  In AZ I don't have a lot of cool places to put it so it goes aa little faster it seems but my Grandmother used to take about three weeks and mine is usually done in two.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Day 1

I am starting this blog in hopes that I might be able to pass on some of my gardening knowledge to other people and maybe one day hear that I have inspired someone to start up gardening for themselves.

I recently moved to a new home in Queen Creek AZ and left my previous garden I had been growing in for sixteen years.  After all of those years composting and amending the soil it had become a great little plot to grow my vegetables over the years.  I grew great cabbages (Stonehead is my favorite since its such a dense head) for making sauerkraut, radishes (French Breakfast is my favorite-seems to not cause me any heartburn) and peas (sugar snap because you can eat pods and all, and the Bassett hound loves peas) were my go to winter crops.  The Spring brought the dill and cucumbers for pickling (Rader cukes allowed me great specimens to pickle because they usually end up so straight they fit in the jars better and still if I let them or missed one while picking they were a great slicer that was rarely bitter) and the tomatoes and peppers for salsa (I have found the shorter date tomatoes work the best here because of the two short seasons they do best in, I did Goliath and Beefsteaks once or twice and was rewarded with a few large tomatoes rather than the abundance of smaller ones I got with Early Girl , Champion and Celebrity varieties).

I've now found myself with virgin soil for the most part and feel like I am starting over.  I have little amendments in and the cabbage have produced and one batch of sauerkraut is canned as well as the first batch of spicy pickled beets.  The size of the cabbages is underwhelming but I expected nothing different since I was in a hurry to plant when I moved in.  I did plant more numbers to compensate for the smaller sizes I got.  Beets and radishes seem to be a crop you can grow anywhere as they had little problems.  Peas also did great and I should have planted more simply to use their ability to affix nitrogen into the soil for the future crops.

I'm still plugging along with the new spring crops but the heat started rather early here but looks to cool a bit soon.  I will continue updating and letting you know what works for me as I try to get the soil here up to where I was in Mesa!