Monday, February 1, 2010

February 1 Garden Newsletter

Dear Gardeners~ February 1, 2008

It’s February 1st, and that means that it is time to think about your garden! If you are a dirt-under-the-nails gardener like me, you have been waiting for this day for a long time! The last chance for frost in Phoenix is considered to be February 15, so you have about 2 weeks to get your ground in shape for spring planting.

This week’s checklist:
1. Prepare your water. If you have a drip system, run it and check it for leaks, clogged drippers and missing pieces, especially if you have a puppy like mine that thinks that water tastes better chewed out of a drip line. If you don’t have a drip system, determine your means for watering and prepare it. Drip is an inexpensive and simple installation and I recommend it for anyone who doesn’t want to go outside watering twice a day when the summer’s Blast Furnace heat hits, which will also be the crucial last few weeks before harvest.
2. Prepare your soil. Make sure your fall and winter crops that are finished producing are tilled under. You do not have to own a tiller. I don’t have one and have never really had access to one (that worked). However, I am thinking of renting one (less than $20 at Home Depot) to make my life a little easier. This would also be a good time to decide the age old question: “To be organic or not to be organic”… that is the question of fertilizer. I don’t have any criticism one way or the other, I just want you in the garden. I will say this, though, as an organic gardener, Organic is not the lazy-gardener’s method. There is more time and work involved. So if you end up with low production and survival because you were low on time, then you get a round of applause, but nothing to show for it. So, if Miracle-Gro and insecticides and weed killer will save you enough time to make gardening an option, then please use them! I would rather you be a gardener than someone who wishes they had time to be a gardener. ;0)
3. Size Matters. Choose what you are going to grow this season based on how much time and space you have. You may only have time to grow a few potted plants, but even if you just grow a couple pots of tomatoes and strawberries, you are still a gardener. Whether you are planting a couple of herbs on your kitchen windowsill or ½ an acre of 40 different vegetables & flowers, the key is to not over extend your ability. You want your garden to be your joy. Overplanting causes feelings of failure and disappointment when we can’t keep up with it; I’m speaking from experience! To plant more in less space, google square-foot gardening.
4. Choose your crops. Are you going to grow lots of cucumbers and pickle enough for a 3 years supply? Or are you gonna plant 3 or 4 of your favorite veggies to enjoy fresh but not “put away” (can) any for the future. When choosing one variety of tomato or eggplant (or whatever) over another, choose varieties that have shorter maturation. Seed packets or plantlets available at the nursery will usually say something like “90 days” or “54 days”. Choose the shortest you can get for the crop you intend to plant. Why?, because we have short growing seasons. Believe it or not, a lot of the varieties we grow are the same ones grown in Alaska due to the short growing season. Only our growing season isn’t being cut off by nippy nights, but rather by blast furnace days.

That’s it. Finish your checklist and you will be ready for my email next week recommending different varieties of seeds and plants. I hope you will all give a little thought to what you would like to plant this season and get ready to get dirty!!

Happy Gardening!
Trish Kobialka

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