Archive for April, 2009

Transition Time!

This is ONE yellow pear tomato planted last fall.  the vines are 4-8 feet long and loaded with green tomatoes.

This is ONE yellow pear tomato planted last fall. the vines are 4-8 feet long and loaded with green tomatoes.

Well, my beet & broccoli bed is looking very ratty.  I had pulled out the last of the mesclun last week, and planted Hale’s Best cantaloupe (2 seedlings).  Yesterday I finished off the beets and the broccoli.  It’s getting too warm, too often, to expect them to produce much more. Today I am going to clean up the bed, dress it with a bit of compost, and convert it to melons. 

So we will have Hales Best cantaloupe.  We also have red & green bell peppers.  I only bought one of each, and they are doing great; so great I wish I’d purchased more.  Well, there’s always next year. 

Tomatoes.  Dad planted several tomatoes (red grape, yellow pear and red cherry) in large pots in the frame last fall.  When I arrived in January, they were vining all over the place, so we transplanted them in to the ground.  We kept the yellow pear in the frame, and moved the others to a raised bed. 

As you can see, the yellow pear is doing great, and is absolutely loaded.  The black tarp keeps everything toasty, and we have the irrigation set just right.   The other three tomatoes went into a raised bed, and they are doing well, just not quite as rampant as this one.  (The wind has been an issue.)  In the raised bed we have Early Girl, Sweet 100, Pink Brandywine, and Red October.  The Red October I planted direct from seed in January, just to see how that would work out, and it is working out great. I have since learned that it is good to actually direct sow your tomatoes in August. (If you direct sow your tomatoes, you need to choose short season types like Early Girl, or July 4th, unless you have a frame to protect them.  So that is on the agenda for NEXT year’s garden!

So, tomatoes & melons.  I have started two varieties of winter squash, Delicata and Acorn,which will be planted in a basin and allowed to ramble.  Sugar Baby watermelon will be direct sown in the frame.

The "Frame"

The "Frame"

(The “frame” is our original garden, which we framed so we could put up plastic in the winter and shade cloth in the summer to extend our harvests.)

We didn’t use the frame much this past year due to some family medical issues; lots of trips to Vegas to the doctor really cut into the ol’ gardening time.  We sure did miss our year-round tomato harvest, though!  We are looking forward to building another bed, which will be a hot bed, for tomatoes next winter. (Much more on that in future posts!)

Tomatoes this summer?  Well, once the temps stay above 100, most, if not all tomatoes, will not pollinate.  So we do tomatoes usually from mid-September to May-June, depending upon the weather.  That’s why we use shade cloth!

Bean pot.

Pole beans, Scarlet Runner & Kentucky Wonder.

I haven’t forgotten about the cats.  We have several buckets of cat grass around, as well as some catnip I am trying to get to sprout.  Oh, and also I have a bucket of beans.  This pot contains three Scarlet Runner and nine Kentucky Wonder pole beans.  Now, I haven’t had much success with beans in the past, but they are SUPPOSED to grow well here, so I’m not giving up yet.  I’m hopeful we will have a stunning focal point once these start climbing. The pole is about 8′ high. The black pot is a concern – I don’t want to cook the roots.  One thing about using pots is that they can be moved around to more clement locations, and that may be necessary for this one.


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It was HOT today. Here on the road to Oatman, we reached 101.  The tomatoes are reveling, the melons delighted. I finished my beet harvest, and will pick the rest of the broccoli tomorrow, and clear that bed out for more melons.  Also thinking that I didn’t plant nearly enough peppers!

As the sun retreats, I am sitting on our patio, cold drink in hand.  I can smell the tangy scent of tomato leaves, the warm hay I put down as mulch yesterday, and the spicy scent of the Geranium potted on this table.  The cats have emerged from what ever cool spot they found today, and are sprawled on the patio, relishing company. (“Mom, where have you been all day?”)  The breeze is soothing, not cold, not hot, just soft and slightly refreshing.

I think I’ll just sit here awhile and adore my tomatoes.

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One of my raised beds; I have two of these, with more coming!

One of my raised beds; I have two of these, with more coming!

I’ve see some people asking whether raised beds work in the desert garden. The answer is a resounding YES!

Some reasons I like using raised beds are: total control of the soil quality and ease of access, especially as one grows older and trying to get up off the ground after weeding or harvesting, and it just ain’t pretty!  Also, raised beds give you a built-in structure upon which to support shade cloth, plastic or chicken wire.

I am currently using basins (wells) and raised beds, and my experience is that they work equally well.

The Seattle Times has an article today on building raised beds. Wow…these look a lot better than mine! Here’s the link:

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THE WEATHER HAS BEEN FRACTIOUS!  Generally, in April we will be having really beautiful weather, highs in the 80’s, lows in the mid 50′ s- so great for so many plants!  In the last month, however, we have had a spell of high 90 degree days, and some days that didn’t reach 60!  Brrrr!  And the WIND!  (I think the one thing about the weather here that I hate isn’t the heat – it’s the WIND!)

garden-16-april-09-0041Transitioning from Spring to Summer in the desert garden is always a bit touchy.  I’ve had the shade cloth out to cover my peas, lettuce and broccoli.  Our broccoli hasn’t been good because it got so hot just when the flowerets were developing, so we didn’t have nice big heads, just little “buttons” .  (I do have a patch of broccoli in the shade house that seems to be doing better.)  

The cantaloupe, on the other hand, wilted when we had that cold snap.  To be honest, I didn’t plant that cantaloupe.  We were using large black pots our trees came in as compost buckets, and they just grew.  Not that we mind!  I’m anxious to see what we get. So far, the cantaloupe is doing well. However, I’m aware that we may get no fruit at all from this plant, if its parents were a hybrid. 

Nonetheless, I have to say I’m really tickled about this cantaloupe.  I have some Hale’s Best Jumbo seedlings set out (they are following the mesclun that bolted, oh well…) and I have some Sugar Baby watermelon seeds in the nursery, but I like surprises – well, nice surprises.

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Here we go!


I guess I should introduce myself.

My name is Kim, and I love gardening. I’m no expert, but since I live in the desert southwest (about 10 miles north of Needles, CA) I have been doing my best to learn all about how to garden here.

BUT! Gardening here is….weird. I been getting all my seed catalogs, and emails from the great seed companies, and they are all now where I was last SEPTEMBER.

It’s different here. We’re kinda topsy-turvy. The rest of the U.S. is all excited about planting peas and lettuce and carrots and all the stuff I planted in JANUARY! I’m planting hot weather crops now: melons and squash. I grew tomatoes all winter long; lettuce, mesclun, broccoli and beets as well. In June & July, my garden will be (mostly) dormant.

So, I wanted to blog about my experiences gardening in the desert: What to plant, when to plant it; what works; what doesn’t. I also wanted to share my experiences, and hopefully hear from others – beginners, experienced desert gardeners, and those in-between – so we can be more successful at growing stuff and get more joy out of our dirt.

Thanks to: Ken at the Walmart Nursery Department in Bullhead City; Allen in Yuma; Tyler Story at http://www.thedesertgarden.com and all the folks at the Arizona Cooperative Extension. Also to my grandparents, who passed on their own love for gardening.

Here we go!

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