Garden, Plant, Cook!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Frost Warning - our up and down January/February - and starting plants

Dear Folks,

Now that we have been lulled into a nice sense of spring a new "front" is coming in bringing not only a probable bit of rain, but also low over-night temperatures - we could be in the low 30s or high 20s by Sunday night (it got down to 37 here Friday night) if not sooner, so keep your protective covers ready or the "poor-man's" cloches made of clean plastic jugs with the bottom cut off.  Leave the cap off if you would like to just leave the jugs in place instead of trying to remember to put them on in the evening and take them off in the morning -- vents the excess humidity and heat.

It is easy to get thinking about sprucing up the garden after the killing frosts of a couple of weeks ago while enjoyed the past 70 degree days, but we will roller-coast into last freeze sometime between February 15 and March 1st - give or take a couple of days.  Do not touch the frost damage plants until the end of February and then begin pruning each plant over the coarse of several days so as not to shock the plant.  (The existing damage will actually be a cover for already hit plants which are still alive -- and most of them will be.)

Many of you know I experiment with not only different edibles to grow, but also how to grow them, and one of the things I have done for a couple of years now is to make a temporary modified greenhouse to start plants ahead of planting out.  I have to stainless steel shelf / bakers racks I use for growing starters and seeds and when the weather heads into winter I drape a clear plastic cover over the shelves, north to south.  I don't bother to try to completely encase rack in plastic, that is not the point -- overhead frost protection is the point and also fully enclosed greenhouses have special issues like pest, mold and mildew challenges.  I take advantage of several important facts about our intense sun -- southern winter exposure and black trays.  If I use covers on the trays, I brace them open a little to vent the excess heat and humidity (just like the plastic jugs mentioned above) and the wonderfully warming sun through the south side of the 'greenhouse' keeps the plants happy during the day and the black trays provide some residual warmth at night.

Because the birds just 'love" to get in my newly plants pots I drape bird netting loosely over the east/west sides of the 'greenhouse' configuration and that keeps the pots in tact - if the silly feather-heads get into the enclosure the openings at the bottom allow the to walk or fly out (only the occasional dove-brain actually walks 'into' the enclosure).

The particular challenge for us desert gardeners and that getting beds ready and the last of the hardy perennials and cool weather annuals is a "NOW" issue.  Because March can gallop into high 90s quickly, getting plants established as early as possible is the best key to success.  If you want some last of the season plants like dill or cilantro, seed (yes seed) them in (soaking them overnight) in an area which will have some afternoon shade by the equinox.  This will allow you to harvest these kinds of cool weather plants later into the spring.

For February planting, Artichoke;  Asparagus;  Basil;  Bay;  Bee Balm (Monarda Didyma);  Beets;  Bok Choy;  Cantaloupe;  Carrots;  Chard;  Citrus Scented Marigold (Tagetes Nelsonii);  Collards;  Corn;  Cucumbers;  English Daisy (Bellis Perennis);  Epazote;  Fruit Trees;  Hollyhock (Alcea Rosea); Jasmin sambac (Arabian);  Jerusalem Artichoke;  Lavender;  Lettuce & Greens;  Marigold;  Marjoram;  Melon, Musk Melon;  Melon, Winter;  Mint;  Mustard;  Onion, Sets;  Onions, Green;  Oregano;  Pansies (Viola X Wittrockiana);  Peas;  Peppers;  Potatoes;  Primrose (Primula Vulgaris);  Purslane (Portulaca X Hybrida);  Radishes;  Safflower (Carthamus Tinctorius);  Sage;  Savory;  Scented Geranium; Snapdragons; Spinach;  Squash, Summer;  Strawberry;  Sunflower;  Sweet Alyssum;  Tangerine Scented Marigold (Tagetes Lemonii);  Thyme;  Tomatoes;  Turnips;  Watermelon.

Don't forget my beginners guide book for desert gardening available in print or as a eBook.


Have a Great weekend.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

P.S.  Check out the calendar for upcoming events - Boyce Thompson Arboretum Plant sale and their Annual Herb Festival - I participate in both.