Thursday, October 1, 2009

October Garden Newsletter

Dear Gardeners,

You’ve waited. You shied from the blast-furnace heat, waiting for this time. Fall planting season has arrived and you can immerge from your summer hiding places; Come out of heat hibernation. If you haven’t already, wash off that trowel, throw those dirty old garden gloves in the next load of laundry, and slip on your work clogs and overalls. Your garden is calling you! Don’t wait to heed it’s call… go now (or at least right after you read this newsletter)!

October Checklist:

1. LESS IS MORE. When the nights have become comfortable and enjoyable again, then it is time to remember to reduce water to your landscape material. Failing to do so, encourages plant disease and infestation and will weaken your flora over time. However, the trick is not to do it too soon, since our days are still climbing into the triple digits. When the days start staying in the 90’s, change your watering system. A good time to do it? Right before the kids leave to go trick-or-treating. Until then, continue to water deeply and infrequently.

2. NO PAIN, NO GAIN. Turn off the water to your summer grass if you intend to plant winter grass. It’s good to let it sit dry for 7-10 days before verticutting and overseeding. This allows your Bermuda to go into dormancy so that it won’t be competing for nutrients and water with your perennial rye (which is not perennial here at all). While turning off the water to the lawn, you can maniacally scream, “Die, Bermuda. DIE!” I think it helps.

3. YOU LOOK GOOD. HAVE YOU LOST WEIGHT? If you are a good little trimmer (and you probably are) then you have waited all through the hot months to prune up your landscape plants, no matter how straggly they’ve become. Removing excess weight growth strengthens your plants. Get out and prune. Your landscape will thank you. It is finally time to de-burden your trees and shrubs with a nice hard trim. How do we know it is time? We know because the nights are becoming comfortable and enjoyable again, and the daytime temps drop into the 90’s. Don’t jump the gun, however, wait until those daytime temps are consistently in the 90’s… a few weeks. Plant that garden first.

4. WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE. If you took my advice last month and cast wildflower seeds, make sure you give them a little water every 5-10 days. You’ll be glad you did, when they offer their thanks in the spring. If you didn’t plant wildflowers last month and would still like to… HURRY UP! Get out there this week, if possible.

5. INSULATION IS A GOOD THING. Mulch all exposed bare soil. It insulates the roots from the heat of the day now, and the cold of the nights later. It encourages microbiotic activity. It improves the soil beneath it. It is a safe fertilizer for our still-hot days. It never causes fertilizer-burn, because it is a gentle lover. It acts as a natural fertilizer. It locks in moisture, reducing water use. It makes your plants say, “Thank you, that’s mulch, mulch better!” As Martha Stewart would say, “It’s a Good Thing.”

6. GO CRAZY, BUT NOT MENTALLY SO. It’s time to go crazy with the planting. If you are putting in a fall garden, head over to your local nursery and pick up seeds. Take a garden buddy. Nobody really needs to plant 1500 seeds of lettuce (roughly how many come in one packet). Split the cost, share the pack. It may not seem helpful with a $2 pack of seeds, but if you are planting 20 different items in your garden, then your seed cost just became $40. Share the love. It’s also time to plant spring flowering bulbs (hooray!!!!), winter grass, trees, shrubs, vines, cool season flowers, strawberries, and kindness. Go crazy!

7. SOONER IS BETTER. When choosing your seeds, choose varieties that develop quickly. For instance at I found Park's Bush Whopper II Cucumber which matures in 61 days. However, they also carried Cool Breeze Cucumber which matures in 45 days. Choose the variety that matures fastest, that still suits your needs, in this case, Cool Breeze. Use this method when choosing your seeds, and you won’t regret it. Why? Because our growing season is short. We want our plants to mature quickly because ripening won’t occur once the temps fall too far down the thermometer. Remember: We are trying to grow plants that are for summer everywhere else, in our short fall weather. It’s a race against the clock.

8. MAKE A PLAN, AND STICK TO IT. Reiterating what I have said in past newsletters, having a garden plan will save you money, time, frustration, and heartache. Make the plan before you shop, and stick to it.

9. THE WRITER’S MIND NEVER WHITHERS. Again, reiterating, but it’s worthy of saying. Keep a garden journal. Note what varieties you planted and where. Keep a basic calendar, too. If you find that weather changes prevented your tomatoes from reddening this year, then next year you can plant them a week or two earlier, if you kept a journal of when you planted. If you find that Beefsteak Tomatoes took too long to grow this year, and therefore didn’t yield a harvest, then next year you can plant a different variety, if you kept a journal of your experiences. Note: This step is unnecessary for those of you with perfect memories, who never forget anything, who have never been at a loss for someone’s name, never failed to attend an event due to forgetting because you were busy, never forgot to send your child with lunch money or sign their homework, never forgot to get an annual physical, never had to go back to the store for the 1 forgotten item, and who would remember the name of the variety of beets you planted (even though you read it only once when you opened the envelope) nor that you planted it on September 17th, etc. Can you remember details for a year? Then no need to journal. Everyone else: Keep a journal!!!! I use one of those old calendars that my kids made me for Christmas at school. I just write in the little squares in green ink what I planted on that date, and in red ink what I harvested on that date. Easy peasy.

Thus ends the October Newsletter. Keep an eye open for the “Suggestions” portion later. I am tight on time with the kids out of school and don’t want to hold off on publishing this half while you wait.

Hands dirty,

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April 1 Garden Newsletter

Dear Garden Friends,

Welcome, Spring! Has anyone else noticed how everything is greening up and becoming beautiful lately? I love this time of year so much that I always thought if I had a daughter, I would name her Spring. Well, I have several, and none of them named Spring. Perhaps someday!

April Checklist:
1. SEARCH AND DESTROY. Inspect your yard for weeds, this probably won’t take a magnifying glass if your yard looks anything like mine right now. Spray ‘em, pick ‘em, stomp ‘em, kill ‘em! Make sure you get the roots! And don’t let them stay in your yard to multiply from seed or layering. Bag ‘em and trash ‘em.
2. How would you look if you lived on water alone? Both you and your plants look better when fed properly. Malnutrition happens to green things, too. This, the green growing season, is the best time to feed your plants. Whether you are the Miracle-Gro type or the mulch and manure type, this is a good time to let your plants feast.
3. Grow your watermelon and eat it, too. This is the last call to get your fresh summer salads and salsas planted. It’s a great time to put out squash (especially zucchini), cantaloupe, watermelon, eggplant, and peppers.
4. Time for a trim. Keep your trees trimmed up now while they get their growth spurt to help keep them structurally strong come the Monsoon Winds. Keeping shrubs trimmed this time of year will lower their flowering capability, but keep their growth in the shape and manageability you might want. I prefer flowers, personally, but I don’t blame you people with green yoga ball shapes in your yard, either. It’s your garden; grow with it what and how you will!
5. Journal it! Keep track of your work and get all the glory. Even if all you do is scratch “pulled weeds” onto little square on the calendar, you’ll be glad you did. If you find come summer that “pulled weeds” showed up 8 times in two months, then next year it will be your reminder to do a little more weed prevention. It’s especially helpful when planting seeds and plantlets so that you can measure their growth or recall what was planted when you don’t recognize the seedlings coming up.
6. Location, location, location. Have houseplants? This is their biggest growing season. It is also the time of year that windows begin to heat up in the desert. Time to turn your plants and move them back from the window a little way so they don’t get burned. Remember, most common houseplants are shade-loving tropical plants in their natural habitat.

That’s it! Short is sweet. You’ll find below my standard itemized-by-category garden hints. Get out and garden while the weather is great!

Hands dirty,

Trish’s April Suggestions

(alphabetical by category)


It’s time to remove your cool-season annuals and plunk in something for summer. Trish’s Hint: You can save a few annuals to perrenialize if you don’t mind the work of moving them. Move your gerbera daisies and geraniums into a shady place for summer, and they will keep on going!

Plant and sow now: aster, coneflower, coreopsis, cosmos, gaillardia, hollyhock, lisianthus, Madagascar periwinkle (commonly called vinca), pentas, portulaca, sanvitalia, sunflower (kids love this one because it gets taller than Daddy!), verbena, vinca, and my personal favorite of this time of year: zinnia.

Fertilizing: If you are a fertilizing gardener, do it now. You can’t do it later when it gets too hot or it will stress your plants. Work now, play later.


I love the bulbs that come out this time of year. My faves? Amaryllis, Caladium, Calla, Canna, and Spider Lily. Last month it was time to divide your bulbs, or bulb chop. This month it is time to bulb shop!

Planting: calla, canna, crinum, dahlia, habranthus, montbtretia, oxblood lily, queen of the Nile, rain lily, spider lily. (Keep an eye out for a picture upcoming on the blog from last fall’s lily display in the pond!)

Water: To keep blooms coming on your flowering bulbs such as iris, keep them well watered this time of year. You can let them dry out after the show.


Honestly, I don’t know much about the cacti and succulents other than the ones I have had have never died or needed any help from me to stay alive. Thus, they are my friends.

Plant: Now is a good time to begin planting your desert native perennials and succulents. Ocotillo are about to make their show, so that is a good choice if you don’t mind the thorns.


It’s still a good time to plant citrus and figs. If you have citrus, it is time to check the trunks for paint. Citrus trees are actually not trees at all, but huge bushes (picture in your mind’s eye one of the citrus groves… do you see how they are really just big bushes with no trunk?). We home growers and landscape maintenance people like to trim them up to look like trees. However, God designed the bark of the citrus to be shaded, as it would be in nature growing as a bush. If your citrus is cut up to look like a tree, then the bark will need protected from sun-burn. This is why we paint the bark white. You wouldn’t let your fair children stay outside all year long with no protection from the sun. Don’t let your sun-sensitive citrus bark do it either. Get out and paint those trees!

Fertilize: Time to fertilize your berries and grapes!


For the sake of time, I am skipping grasses this month. There isn’t much to say other than that is a good time to plant summer grasses like Bermuda, St. Augustine, and Zoysia.


Something I have always wanted to do is grow a butterfly garden. I haven’t just because I am not too keen on caterpillars when they invade my veggie garden and skeletonize my passion vines. I like to hold them, put them in a jar for my kids to enjoy, and release them as butterflies, but that doesn’t mean I want 300 of them, either. Thus I have never done it. But you flower gardeners out there could do it, and this is the best time to plant all of those butterfly attracting flowers! Coincidentally, you will also attract hummingbirds. Lucky you!

Planting: blood flower, blue mist, columbine, desert milkweed (if you haven’t done any weeding lately, you may already have this growing in your yard!) damianita, eupatorium, four o’clocks, gerbera daisy, globe mallow, hollyhock, lantana, penstemon, pine leaf milkweed, red justicia, red salvia, Russian sage.


I hope you rose-growers didn’t miss bare-root season, but if you did, you can still plant container-grown roses and miniature roses now!

Care: Remove spent roses to encourage more blooms to come on.

Fertilize: You can continue to fertilize all this month. I really like to use spent coffee grounds from Starbucks. They will bag them up for you and put a sticker on it that says, “Grounds for Gardeners”. Gotta love Starbucks!


I’m skipping this category this month, too. Suffice it to say you can still plant desert-adapted trees and shrubs now, but wait a month for palms. If you have a specific question, feel free to email me or post it on the comments section of this blog!


This is a great time to plant a summer garden for your kids to enjoy during their long break from school! Easy plants for kids to try would include melons, cucumbers and peanuts! Peanuts are really cool because they have the pretty flowering bean plant on top, and underground grow the peanuts, which are actually in the roots. How cool is that?!

Planting and sowing: Basil, bay, black-eyed peas, bush beans (plant early), carrots, Cuban oregano, cucumbers, eggplant, garlic chives, Jerusalem artichoke, jicama, lemon grass, lima beans, marigolds (keep FAR AWAY from any type of bean plant!), marjoram, melons, Mexican mint, Mexican oregano, okra, oregano, peanuts, peppers, radish, snap beans, summer squash, sweet corn, sweet potato, pole beans (plant early), pumpkin, spearmint, thyme, tomato (large transplants only at this stage of the game), watermelon

Work: Start to think about shading your tomato plants around the end of this month if we get close to the 100 degree mark!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

You know it's spring when

Want to grow potatoes?

I found this great information on the internet about growing potatoes in the low desert. Thought I would share it.

Click on Mr. Potato Head to go there and read all about it!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

February 8 Garden Newsletter

Dear Gardener’s~ February 08

I’m a day late and a dollar short, but here is this week’s newsletter, nonetheless. I’m a busy girl, what can I say? It is also late and I know I won’t get to this tomorrow, so I will be more concise than narrative. So here goes!

This week’s checklist:

1. No Slacking. Complete last week’s checklist, if you haven’t had a chance already. And don’t kick yourself if you aren’t done yet (or a week from now for that matter)… I’m not.
2. Go browse the garden centers. You don’t have to drive to downtown PHX to Baker’s for (the best) selection. You can just go around the corner to Home Depot, Wal-Mart, or Fry’s Marketplace. Or Target is one of my favorites… Take a look at what is on the shelf to get an idea of varieties and colors that you may want to use before step three. Take notes on prices so that you can create a budget. It’s no fun to think you are going to get away with spending $X and end up spending $5X. Check prices of seeds and decide if you could share a packet with a neighbor. Most envelopes hold enough for several season’s plantings, too.
3. Make yourself a treasure map. Sketch (or list for you less artsy gardeners) a basic garden plan. This is helpful whether you are doing veggies, annual flowers, perennials, shrubs, trees, herbs, or cacti, whether seeds or plants. It doesn’t matter what you are doing in life, having a plan always makes you more productive and successful. Even if you are using pots, this will help you stay in budget when you arrive at the garden center and also double as a shopping list for less time wasted which equals more time gardening (or mending, ironing, mowing, car washing, napping, singing, hiking… you get the picture). Google Square Foot Gardening and Companion Planting for some great ideas on how to use your space. You don’t need to buy books on these subjects. You can everything you need to know from free online sources, the library, and Trish’s home bookshelf (feel free to stop by anytime). Less is more: less lettuce spent on knowledge equals more garden cash!
4. Do your research. Decide which varieties you are going to grow based on what you know will be successful here AND what is available to you. It is probably a little too late to order seeds online for February plantings for instance, so you will be limited to what is available locally.
5. Do your shopping! Yes, that glorious moment is here. You’ve done the preparing, now clear a space on your calendar to plant. Don’t purchase until that spot in your dayplanner is your dayplanter. You don’t want to have 15 pots on your porch for 15 days. You want to buy ‘em and plant ‘em. Better for them, better for you, and less costly if they are forgotten and die. Living things are always preferable to me over dead ones. Is it the same for you?
6. The memory is the first thing to go; Keep a journal. This is extremely helpful. It helps you know when to expect fruit, helps you remember next year how long it took your peas to germinate or how many pounds of tomatoes you brought in, or which variety of zucchini did better in which location (gardening is a process of trial and error), it helps you remember that it got too hot one year for your larkspur to flower and to remind you to plant it three weeks earlier the next year, helps you identify your crops if you forget what you planted or if they don’t germinate when expected, it helps you remember the names of the flowers when the little white identifier stakes have gone the way of the dog, helps you remember where you planted bulbs during the seasons that they are invisible so as to keep you from accidentally troweling them, it helps, it helps, it helps. My first year that I got really serious about growing food, I kept seeing this group of plants in my garden that I couldn’t identify. One day I was out there thinking, those look exactly like carrot tops… **ding, ding, ding** I didn’t remember planting any carrots that year, but these were definitely carrots. I pulled one out to check, and yep, they were carrots. Since then I have kept a journal. My first was one of those calendars that your kindergartener makes you for Christmas. I just wrote on January 12, planted spinach and April 20, harvested last of spinach. The next year I got more in depth. This year for the first time, I am going to keep it on my blog. (When I get to that point, I will include the blog address in an email.) Okay, I have rambled long enough about the journaling. I wasn’t going to be narrative…. But really, it is so incredibly helpful!!

Okay, you’ve heard it all. That’s the end of the newsletter. The next page is just my suggestions on what to possibly be doing and planting in the garden over the next week or two. While you wait for the next newsletter, don’t kill the bugs. I’ll write about them next time. Meanwhile, if you have a question, or garden concern or success you want to share with me, you know what to do. Email or call me at 988-2760.

Happy Gardening!


Sunday, February 1, 2009

Feb. 1, 2009 Garden Newsletter

Dear Gardeners~                                                                                                
Do you ever have one of those blessed moments where you think you have a lot of work to do, but find a solution that eliminates most of the effort and provides you with a little lemonade time?  I just had one of those moments.  Oh, yes.  I sat down to begin the process of writing the February newsletter, (and these newsletters take a lot longer than you think) and thought… “I’m gonna look on the blog and read what I wrote for last March to get me in the mood.”  So, I opened, knowing I had started the garden blog last March, to find that I had also posted February newsletters on there.  Let me tell you, I heard choirs of angels.  And so, I am pleased to present to you, my fine gardening friends, Last Year’s Newsletter (I think it deserves capiltalized, don’t you?!).  However… this is not the exact same newsletter from last year. Oh, no!  This is the new and improved newsletter.  I am adding some information that I found it to be lacking, and sprucing it up!  So, without further ado, all the way from Gilbert, Arizona, dressed to kill in it’s gloves, straw hat, and overalls, I give you the complete, the beautiful, the desert-adapted February Garden Newsletter!!!   *crowds cheer, band plays, balloons release, doves fly over, rainbow crosses the sky, heavenly trumpets sound*

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.  *2009 update: Blossom no longer chews on the drip line.  Hooray!  Okay, back to work.*  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. 
5.                   Prune to the Moon.  It’s time to prune back roses, grapes, and fruit trees.  I found some fantastic grape vines growing in a yard in Mesa.  I got permission from the vine’s owner to share those pictures, so look forward to learning how to trim and train your canes in next week’s letter.  Wait until after Feb 15 to prune back winter frost damage on everything else.
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!