Notes From a Plant Freak

April 9, 2013 |

Blow Off Work, It is Spring

Oh, spring! This is not the time of year one wonders why one lives in Arizona. We may not have a frost to thaw, but the balmy spring condones an

ease of sorts, in the guts. This is the time we call in sick to blow off work and find the sweeter things in life–enjoying epicurean delights, or perhaps romance; and of course, the time we get lost in the garden.

As April moves into May, we finally start to see the cool-season crops give out to bolting (going to seed) and bitterness. Some last longer than others, but just because a crop is bolting does not mean you cannot add another succession. You can still squeeze out at least one more cilantro crop. Everything else, you might just be sick of. Lettuces really start to get bitter as we enter May. But since the warm season is here, you should be planting the things that love the warm season. You should be planting basil like crazy–from seed. As it warms up, basil wants to go to flower. Pinch off the flower-heads so that you encourage branching and more vegetative growth. Basil is a heavenly herb. If you only plant one crop, it should be basil.

It’s time to plant the heck out of squashes, melons, cucumber, corn, black-eyed peas, sunflowers, sweet potato, jerusalem artichoke, amaranth and most perennial herbs like oregano and thyme.

Beware, the landscape of your garden is not going to be tidy. Unlike the cool season crops with their predictable sizes at maturity, many summer crops take up huge amounts of space: the vining squashes, melons, and cucumbers clamor about the garden, while the corn, jerusalem artichoke, sunflowers, and amaranth climb high. Plant your tall crops toward the north end of the garden so they don’t unnecessarily shade out other crops. Expect that tomatoes will pull down the cages and ramble about (you still have a good few months of delicious tomatoes, which will give out once June arrives). Peppers and eggplant also misbehave, if only slightly less than tomatoes. But they will continue to produce a little longer into the season.

This is perhaps the most important time to mulch your crops with compost and straw. The compost provides more readily available soil nutrients, which will feed your plants. The straw acts as an insulative layer, slowing down evaporation and keeping the soil a little cooler. This can make a huge difference, helping tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and more last much longer into the hot summer. They will also produce better when the soil surface isn’t being beaten up by the sun. April is gorgeous. Besides cultivation, the garden will be the scene of unintentional meditations sitting in lawn chairs, weekend day drinking and perhaps romance (rekindled or new). Your hard work will not only feed your belly, it will put life into your limbs.



Category: Living, RECREATION