Today I taught my gardening basics class at Honeyville Farms. It was a good turnout, with people standing because there weren’t enough seats, and several people asked if the store sold my book. They are going to review it and see if it is a good fit for their store or not. I’ll let you know if it becomes available there.
For now, my book is on Amazon.com free for Kindle Prime members, and it will be free for everybody for a few days before my next book comes out. I’ll announce the date when it gets closer. Here’s the link: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lazy+arizona+organic+gardener
For now… let’s talk about how to prepare your beds for your fall garden and questions I encountered today at the class.
Next weekend here are my plans (8/25/12):
Clear out the existing beds, including melon and squash vines. Yes, even those beautiful Armenian cucumber vines are gonna go. Trim back the dead canes on my blackberry bushes.
The following weekend plans (9/1/12):
Dig in some gypsum in all my beds and add a thick layer of unfinished homemade compost (leaf debris and grass clippings) 4 to 6 inches deep. Finish cleaning out beds from weekend before if wasn’t able to get it all done. Put down 2 layers of weed fabric in garden paths and lay down bark chips on top of that.
The 2nd weekend in September, if the weather is right (check honeysuckle bushes–should be in consistent bloom), the plans (9/8/12):
Prepare the lawn for overseeding by cutting back watering, lowering the lawn mower blade. Start dethatching with garden rake. Trim back all rose bushes and put layer of compost down. Also, trim back my tomatoe and pepper plants that survived the brutal summer. Remove dead apricot tree (got hit by borers). Buy my spring flowering bulbs (tulips and daffodils) and put them in the fridge for 2 to 3 weeks. They go in the bottom crisper by themself with no other fruits or vegetables, with date clearly marked with a Sharpie for when they began their hibernation in my fridge. If nighttime temperatures are staying under 85 degrees, then will go ahead and plant the following seeds:
- loose leaf lettuce varieties
- garlic cloves
- onion sets (if available at local garden nurseries)
- sweet allysum
- sweet peas
- snow peas
- pole beans
- bush beans
- maybe 1 more pepper plant
Today as I was teaching, I was stumped by a few questions. That doesn’t happen often, so here they are:
Question from email from somebody that attended one of my previous classes: How do you have lettuce for 6 months straight? Do you go out and constantly reseed?
My answer: This question probably arose because most of us think when we plant lettuce, when we’re ready to eat it, we’ll harvest the whole head, pulling it out by the roots. Don’t worry. I used to think like that too but that’s not required, especially not for loose leaf varieties. Here’s what I told her–don’t remove the whole head. Or if you do, don’t pull the roots out and leave at least 1 to 2 inches at the base of the plant. It will grow back. Normally I have a variety of lettuces in my garden and I keep them touching each other’s leaves. They last longer by not bolting as quickly. I think they create a microclimate this way and shade the roots, keeping the temperature down. When I want to make a salad, I only remove a few outter leaves from several of the plants, enough to fill a bowl. I rinse them real good and tear into pieces. If I want it for a sandwich or burger or something similar, I only remove two leaves for my meal, rinse them and call it a masterpiece. I usually thin my lettuce once or twice after the seedlings are about 1 inch high, and I either put those seedlings into a salad or throw them straight into the compost. Depends on how lazy I’m being.
Question: I have 4 big pine trees near some newly planted citrus trees that are now 2 years old. Should I rake the pine needles out from around the citrus trees?
My answer: I don’t know. Ask the Garden Guy. If he doens’t know, then, yes, I probably would to be on the safe side and rake them out. If the citrus trees start to struggle, put a thick layer of compost around them and replenish that layer at least every 6 months.
Question: I have a white fly infestation. What can I do about that?
My answer: Mostly I stared with an open mouth. Not sure what to do about this one. I mentioned maybe hanging those sticky fly traps, but after I got home I was thinking I might go ahead and spray the plants down with insecticidal soap or I might even go out with it and spray in the swarm of them in the air. If that didn’t work, I might try some hairspray to glue their wings together, then step on them once they’ve dropped to the ground. Worth a try? Again, I’d probably ask the Garden Guy. He knows all there is to know because he works hard. I just take his stuff and simplify it for lazy people like me.
Question: Help! I have a raised bed already in place. I followed the Square Foot Garden and mixed the soil all up. Now what do I do? Do I need to add compost to it?
My answer: After I asked several questions, here’s what I found. The soil mix is dry, it has not been watered. That’s good. The soil hasn’t shrunk down and settled much and there is at least 4 to 6 inches of soil there. Another good thing. My advice was wait one month and then go ahead and plant. If she thinks the soil mix is too airy and dries out (because that is my one complaint with his soil mixture; I don’t think it’s meant for our arid desert) then, yes, I would add some mulch or compost. Or even just a layer of dried leaves on top to make it more dense and nutritient packed. The other issue I have with his soil (and this goes for commercial potting soil as well) is the nutrients leave it pretty quickly and are washed away within a few weeks. So, for me, I would go ahead and top it off with some homemade unfinished compost of grass clippings (without Bermuda stolons please!) and dried leaves.
Question: My yard is set up in such a way I can’t garden on the west end of my yard where the plants will get the most morning sun. Right now I have my garden plott on the east side.
My answer: I have the same exact problem with a huge Arizona Ash in the center of my yard that shades the west end of my back yard all year long. I also have some concrete walkways over there along with a massive swing set for the kiddos. All I did was move my garden on the east end of my yard about 2 feet out from the fence line. It made all the difference in the world. I grow my broccoli, lettuce, onions, carrots and garlic over there. I am sometimes able to grow tomatoes back there, but it’s iffy. Tomatoes like a lot of sun, and there still simply isn’t enough. Tomatoes and peppers are grown in my front yard where there’s a ton of morning sun, and they are happy there.
Here’s a picture of what my front garden looks like right now:
It contains melon vines (though they never fruited), Armenian cucumber transplants (2 of them that took over the entire wall and spread to the other side), 2 half dead tomatoe plants that may or may not survive after I give them some CPR, a healthy looking pepper and basil plant, a strong healthy pumpkin vine that produced 3 pumpkins, two lemon balm plants that are robust and smell terrific, wild sunflowers and several zinnias.
I also included a picture of my lawn since it took all summer to get it into this condition. It took a ton of water, and I’m talking a ton! I hate watering that much, but we wanted a nice lawn. It’s that thick spongy Bermuda hybrid I like that almost doens’t have to be mowed. We have to water this sucker 45 minutes per day! Can’t wait for my reliable fescue in October that only requires watering twice week at half that amount all winter long once it’s established. See why I hate summer lawns? They’re water hogs!
And finally, a picture of the little guy I caught this morning and dragged along with me to my gardening class. It was a good sized praying mantis. They love my basil, though this guy was found on my zinnia’s I was cutting to bring to class with me for a visual prop. I released it back into the garden when I got home. I love these guys. They eat every bug in sight. With him and my toad hanging out somewhere in my yard, I have had no bad bugs in my garden (that I virtually ignored this summer because it was hot and I was writing).
Here’s to having a productive fall garden with a minimum of work.