Spring always forces us to face the true ebb and flow of seasons in the Southwest desert. Perhaps it’s because winter gardens are spent – lettuce has bolted, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli have flowered – and tomatoes are on their way to setting fruit and ripening. Some gardeners worry they don’t have their spring gardens planted in time, and others look forward to getting warm-weather plants in place. This is a season for pacing ourselves.
There are three distinct gardening seasons here, but Spring is in some ways the most flexible and forgiving: Just as gardening should be. There is still a lot you can do in your gardens right now, even with the drying winds and warmer temperatures on the way.
You still have a lot of time to plant basil, black-eye peas, beans, corn, cucumber, eggplant, jicama, lemongrass, melons of all kinds, okra, peanuts, peppers, pumpkins, tea hibiscus, winter and summer squash, sunflowers and sweet potato and many other warm-weather herbs.
Many of these can be started from seed, but they will also be available as transplants from Gregory Ware at our Warm Weather Plant Sale on Sunday, April 17.
While you’re here we’re happy to help you with questions you may have about pests and plant issues. We’re also fully stocked with the tools you may find useful in keeping your current crops happy – 50% shade cloth for those tomatoes, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) for things like grape-leaf skeletonizer, and Grow More Seaweed Extract to help plants build a strong root system and enhance their ability to ward off diseases and pests, especially sap feeding insects such as aphids.
A couple of our regular gardening customers claim they never have pest or plant problems because they use seaweed extract on a regular basis. Amy’s adding it to her plants this year, too.
During this flexible gardening season, consider what you’ll do with your harvest when it happens. Gregory will be here May 15 to teach you the Basics of Canning. You’ll learn how to safely preserve and use the harvests from all your spring and summer plantings. Your grandma would be proud!
We follow Arizona gardening very closely. We are members of several garden communities, receive regular updates from local agricultural experts, and we work in gardens on a regular basis. Best of all we get to chat with many of you about your progress. What strikes us is the range of outcomes gardeners have. Some will show photos of their plumb big tomatoes in early March which leaves others wondering, “How did they do that? My tomatoes are just small plants.” Others will tell you to never plant gardenias because they don’t “grow here” and then someone shows off a big, beautiful gardenia plant thriving in Phoenix.
So, you see, there are not a lot of rights and wrongs in this hobby we love. There are good practices that make sense due to climate and soil conditions. Is lettuce planted now going to last and taste good? Almost a guaranteed “no.” Do gardenias thrive in the desert? Not often, but if you want to try then of course you should, but learn what a gardenia needs (good drainage, acidic soil) and provide it. You’ll learn through trial and error – and good classes. Take good notes on what brings success and what doesn’t and you’ll find what works best for your garden and then you can repeat it. Be flexible and forgiving – just like Spring.