Garden, Plant, Cook!

Monday, January 19, 2015

From The Desert Garden, January 17, 2015 - Yes you can growing things in the winter!

Dear Folks,

This collage of pictures taken January 17, 2015 is why we garden in the desert.

Top to bottom:  Red Alpine Strawberry, first Apple Blossom, onions, White Alpine Strawberry, Johnny Jump-Up.

Alpine Strawberries are easy to grow from seed, freely re-seed in place if you let them, and produce fewer runners than their larger relatives.  The reason for growing these beauties is their incredible flavor.  A real WOW in a tiny package.  And they bloom and fruit 3-5 times a year depending on weather conditions.  Right now we have had a crop and more flowers are coming on.

What's a white strawberry?  These delicious varieties are strawberry flavor with a taste of pineapple.  They are more tropical in overall taste. And the birds can't seem them!!!

Birds have difficulty seeing white or yellow fruit.  Plus the alpine growing habit tends to shield even the red fruit under a canopy of leaves.

Our apple tree has a first flower and even more buds and all of the leaves have not fallen off.  This is typical of the desert deciduous trees.  When you have to prune them (should be in December) many or most of the leaves are still on the tree.  The apples are ripe in May and June when I enjoy eating them and making applesauce and sun-drying apple slices.

There are 50 onion plants in the picture and you may be asking why planted so closely?  This is intentional and a great way to have green (scallion) onions all winter.  These were planted as sets on November 11th.  They are the right size now for me to go out and pick every other one when I need a scallion.  By the time late spring / early summer comes, the remaining onions have room to produce the 'bulb" size we want for storage.  (At that point they are pulled and hung to dry in the shade of the trees - just like the garlic which is harvested in April - May - you dry them until the outer skin is papery.)

Last but certainly not least are the Johnny Jump-Ups.  Several years ago I threw seed in our lawn for the winter (we do not winter over-seed) and the results were stunning and delightful.  Since the JJUs freely reseed we have gotten more and more spectacular and visually delightful flower lawns each year.

Besides these goodies, my sugar peas are ready to produce pods, my lettuces (which reseeded from last year) are producing large amounts of greens.  The nasturtiums took a major hit in the freeze 2 weeks ago but the ones that survived are doing great and new ones are coming up to replace the lost ones (another re-seeding favorite).

Getting ready for transplanting, I currently have seedlings for basil, tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers going.  I'm going to start sunflowers, cantaloupe and watermelon this week.

I am pre-soaking the seeds for several days to jump start breaking the dormancy and popping them into jiffy pellets.  I use a variety of containers (mostly re-cycled produce containers) to act as 'green houses'.

 I will be watching the weather for transplanting and have my poor man's cloche (water jug with bottom cut off) ready to protect the transplants overnight if necessary.

I will also have some of these "starts" for sale the beginning of February at the Mesa Community Farmers Market.

The weather is great right now, have fun in your garden!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

P. S.  A reminder my "Valley of the Sun Gardening Calendar - 2015" is available to help you be successful in your desert garden.

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