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!                                                                                         

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