Garden, Plant, Cook!

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

February Planting/Sowing Tips.

Dear Folks,

My harvest 1 day in early January.  I am showing this to make a point.  Those peppers are from plants which have been growing ALL year long.  If you get your pepper plants going in February (with some frost protection) you get a crop in late spring, early summer - they may take a rest in the summer heat and start producing again in the fall and winter.  They like afternoon shade AND even though we had a freeze and they are freeze-sensitive, these plants are under tree canopy for protection.

The other goodies are sugar pea pods and the gorgeous blooms of Magnolia Sugar Snap Peas, mixed greens (sown in September and I've been harvesting since late October as cut and come again) and of course our citrus.

The point is, you will harvest what you sow or transplant.  Simple :-)

The Herb of the Year for 2019 is Anise hyssop, Agastache Foeniculum, a lovely and fragrant herb which will grow in our desert gardens in the cooler time of the year.  Read more on this herb here.

Be Frost Aware!
Have your frost protection covers handy through at least the middle of March.  Not just because of frost but because of the possibility of hail as the seasons transition.  I like my poor man's cloches for seedlings and young transplants.

For a variety of reasons I chose not to put up my greenhouse this year, and opted for a smaller version.  It is working nicely.  I chose this particular garden table because of the slats allowing some air circulation to avoid issues of too much condensation or worse, mold.

If you want to do something like this, you can keep the greenhouse up until sometime in March to boost your seedling growth.  Plan on something to raise the tub up with air space for circulation.



Artichoke; Asparagus; Basil; Bay; Bean, Lima; Beets; Bok Choy; Cantaloupe; Carrots; Chard; Citrus Scented Marigold (Tagetes Nelsonii); Collards; Corn; Cucumbers; Epazote; Fruit Trees; Jerusalem Artichoke; Lavender; Lettuce & Greens; Marigold; Marjoram; Melon, Musk Melon; Melon, Winter; Mint; Mustard; Onion, Sets; Onions, Green; Oregano; Peas; Peppers; Potatoes; Purslane; Radishes; Sage; Savory; Spinach; Squash, Summer; Strawberry; Thyme; Tomatoes; Turnips; Watermelon


Bee Balm (Monarda Didyma); English Daisy ; Hollyhock; Jasmine Sambac (Arabian); Pansies; Primrose; Purslane; Safflower; Scented Geraniums; Snapdragons; Sunflower; Sweet Alyssum; Tangerine Scented Marigold (Tagetes Lemonii)

Frost/Freeze:  Average last frost day is approximately February 15th, however frost and hail has been seen as late as the second week in March.  It is best to have your frost covers handy.

GARDEN TIPS for February

February is the transition time for the garden from Winter to Spring sowing, transplanting and harvesting.

There is still time to get a last batch of carrots, sugarpeas, lettuces and similar in the ground. Choosing short maturity varieties, particularly of the root veggies, will give you more harvesting success as the weather jumps to heat in a couple of months.

February is also the time to start your warm season plants like tomatoes, basil and peppers, to name a few.  But they may need some initial frost protection.  Keep in mind that they may actually stop growing if there is a cold day or several, which chills the soil.  Then they resume when the soil heats back up (an interesting phenomenon I finally caught on to several years ago).

The weird weather of the last couple of years in February/March with high temps followed by overnight chill/freeze (Global Weirding as Karis over at the Valley Permaculture Alliance put it so well), makes for some required diligence in the garden in February and March.  It pays to remain more mindful of what the weather will be rather than just sow and try to grow.

February is the end of the primary perennial best planting time in the valley (October - February).  What this means is that to ensure the best success for your perennials like rosemary, oregano and fruit trees, it is best to have them in the ground before the end of February and the beginning of our temperature increases.

New to-the-valley residents can be surprised by the common spring joke of "when is spring here?" and the answer is "do you remember that period in early March when it was about 78-83 or so degrees for about 2 weeks? - that was it!"

This of course is due to the sudden rise of temperatures from balmy mid 70s in late February / early March to the 90s by April 1st (or higher - we have had the rare 100+ degree days in late March or early April).

The plants just can't take the stress of dealing with putting down roots while the temperatures soar into the 90+ range in just a few short weeks.

Fertilize fruit trees now -- Use Valentine's day as the target -- (and again in late May (Memorial Day) and early September (Labor Day).
    Pecan trees need zinc sulfate, applied at the rate of 1 pound per trunk inch width.

    The last frost date averages around February 15th, although we have had frost as late as March 1st or 2nd (usually the result of a late winter storm with hail).
    Frost in the Valley at the 1100 or lower elevations is usually limited to ‘soft frost’ where simple sheets or paper placed over sensitive plants (or moving potted plants beneath patios or trees) is sufficient to protect them. Hard/Killing frosts are rare particularly in February/March.
    For every 1000 feet over 1100 in elevation the last frost day is moved back 10 days and the possibility of hard (killing) frosts starts to occur.  At 2000 feet or lower, this is still a rare occurrence.
    Getting your edible seedlings in the ground as early as possible provides longer-produce seasons - especially with plants like tomatoes.
    Use homemade 'cloche' covers to protect seedlings -- cut the bottom of gallon milk containers or 2 liter soda bottles - clean very well to avoid mold -- place over plants each night until frost danger is past, remove during the day, or if you need to be gone for several days remove the cap to allow excess heat and humidity to escape.
    How do you know if we are finished with frost?  There are some examples in nature, but you still need to be prepared to cover sensitive plants through the 2nd week in March.
        a. Ant activity in the garden indicates the soil has warmed up sufficiently for them to start gathering food again.
        b. If the mesquite trees have started to bud out, it is unlikely to frost after that
        c. Be aware that a warm storm can contain some hail through March.

    Here in the Valley we can have Hail on an expected basis in Spring, early Summer and Fall.
    The perfect conditions for Hail are warm OR WARMING soil, cool air mass coming in AND wind.

    February and March have the perfect combination of warming soil and a cool system moving in.  If you add wind you will generally get hail.
    So, while actual frost may not happen keep your frost protection covers and jugs handy in the event of hail to safeguard your new seedlings and transplants.

My Apple Tree Seedlings Update.

I had posted I purchased some "landrace" wild Montana apple tree seeds and they sprouted in October 2018.  Then in December I discovered a green apple (purchased) had sprouted seeds when I opened - so, I sowed them too!

Fast forward and I needed to transplant into bigger pots.

The two landrace apples are at the top of the collage.  The green apple volunteers (2 sprouted, weeks apart) are in the bottom two pictures one close up and the other showing its "pot-mate" a citrus tree.  (The plant peeking out in the middle of the collage is a mint in a nearby pot, "wanting" to make friends with the apple tree pot - I said no!)

Here is hoping they all do well with the transplant.  One of the green apple root balls broke apart when I transplanted it.  The two landrace apples had incredible roots formed.  I got them transplanted just in time - a head of any potential root binding.

FREE Seed Share, February 7th, Mesa Public Library.


Two Recipes to share - one using my caper berries and another using mixed greens.

I was musing a couple of weeks ago about an appetizer (really a whole meal!) I used to get at the old Fish Market Restaurant on Camelback. The recipe is simple:  Brie cubes softened in oil of choice and spread on the toast (in the picture for our tasting comparison I had olive oil and avocado oil -- we did not find any difference in taste)  Cured salmon (smoked and brined), sourdough bread, red onion and my Caper Berries whole and sliced.  AWESOME!  Totally indulgent and can't have this too often but oh my - what a fun meal.  Oranges from our trees to round it off.

A fun recipe shared by Lisa Steele over at Fresh Eggs Daily from her blogging bud Framed Cooks.

Bacon and Egg Drop Soup!

I did write about this on facebook.  I love egg drop soup but do not think of nearly enough.

This was wonderful.  I asked my meat and potatoes guy if I could change it up next time, add something?  He had the cutest response - "this is a wedding gown soup, not a blue jeans soup" and more flavor like spinach (which is what the recipe originally calls for) would take away the "delicate" flavor and texture.   My wonderful guy!

I used mixed greens because I am slightly allergic to spinach, beets and chard.

Here is the original recipe and I will give you the ingredients below - easily adjusted for number of servings.

Fresh Egg and Bacon Soup (Framed Cooks)
6 slices bacon, chopped into 1 inch pieces
3 cups chicken broth
4 cups baby spinach
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs, beaten well
Salt and pepper

I hope you have a wonderful time in the garden and kitchen!

You can find my gardening help book and calendar and cookbooks on Amazon.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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