Garden, Plant, Cook!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

It's a 110 degrees outside, the ground is 180 degrees in the afternoon sun, and I want you to Garden?!?

Pictured: Sweet Alyssum

Dear Folks,

August in the desert - by alternates it is either 110, raining torrents or humid enough to steam the veggies right in the ground - and I want you to start gardening!

No I have not lost my mind - many of our family's children are starting or have started back to school, folks are turning their minds to thoughts of fall and winter's cooler temperatures and gardeners need to think cool too -- cool-weather plants.

PLANNING TIP: Think snowsuits in July and swimsuits in December. The wholesalers have to do this for everything from clothes to outdoor equipment.

Consider that in order to have pumpkins for Halloween and Thanksgiving you need to have the seeds in the ground 90-120 days before harvest (depending on the variety). So it is with many of the cool weather herbs and the "cole" (broccoli) family, and winter squash (pumpkin is just one). So, we start 'sowing' in August, specifically August 1st or earlier (again depending on variety of winter squash for instance).

With much loved herbs like dill, cilantro, anise, fennel, parsley, caroway, etc., seed these in every 2-4 weeks through November and you will have a continuous crop until March or April next spring.

Anise; Beans, Snap; Bok Choy; Broccoli; Brussels Sprouts; Cabbage; Caraway; Carrots; Cauliflower; Chervil; Cilantro; Corn; Cucumbers; Dill; Fennel; Onions, Green; Greens, all; Kale; Kohlrabi; Lettuce; Marigold; Mustard; Nasturtium; Parsley; Pumpkin; Purslane; Squash, Winter; Sweet Alyssum; TOMATOES? (Plant seed under the edges of existing basil, if you did not get plants in the ground in late winter.)

Use "nurse" plants: Seeding just under the tips of growing plants allows the leaves to act as ‘nurses' to shield the seeded area from intense, moisture robbing sun. Example: If you have zucchini already growing, sow the winter squash under the edges of the growing plants.

Use the concept of "Three Sisters" planting: Three Sisters is the name given to a type of companion planting used by Native Peoples to maximize both space and moisture. The original Three Sisters was corn, with beans planted beside the corn, and squash planted around the corn. The corn grows tall, the beans grow up the corn, and the squash covers the ground around both, providing a soil canopy and moisture retention. The beans put nitrogen back into the soil at the end of harvest.

Seeds germinate at different temperatures and moisture levels. Warm weather seeds like tomato and basil germinate in the warming soil; cool weather seeds like cabbage or dill germinate in cooling soil.

Watering: In an existing garden where you already water on a schedule (not xeriscape), such watering in conjunction with the soil temperatures will cause the seeds to germinate at their genetic time. If you are starting with a new garden bed, sprinkle the ground lightly (if you water too heavy the seeds will wash out) every other evening until you see some seeds germinating, then, apply a light mulch of no more than half inch to keep the soil cool and moist. As the plants grow, additional shallow layers of mulch can be applied to a depth of 1 inch or so. Start backing off watering to eventually match your regular watering schedule for gardens.

Summer Sowing - dreams of fall in the garden start with summer sowing!

(See side bar for link to Richters - a great source for herb seeds.)

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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