Archive for October, 2009

After a long, hot hiatus, our winter garden is finally going again! YAY!

As I’ve written before, we have great success growing tomatoes all winter long here in the Mohave Valley. Previously, in our “frame” (see photo) however after two years of hard use, I am keeping that spot pretty fallow this winter. I am playing with the idea of planting peas and beans there to fix nitrogen in the soil. But nothing else.

Our new bed is located along our South-facing fence, where I had my compost pile this past year (yes, I planned ahead!) My Garden Engineer (a.k.a. Dad) built a small frame, and we got 5 tomatoes last week at our local Walmart.

Tomatoes we have great success with here during the winters are Yellow Pear, Plum, Sweet 100 (or any small “cherry” type) and Early Girl. We are also trying “Mr. Stripey” this year.

When planting tomatoes for the winter, I gravitate towards short-season (65-70 days) varieties which are indeterminate. Why? Well, for one thing, I’m not too patient, and I like to harvest quickly. And honestly, the conducive growing seasons here are SHORT. Mid-September to mid-December in the fall, and mid-February to mid-April in the spring. Outside of those windows, it is either too cold or too hot to get a good harvest.

But Kim, didn’t you say you harvested tomatoes all winter? Yes, I did! And here is one of the real keys to successful gardening in the desert: Learn how to extend your growing seasons. Number one: I pick short-season varieties; and number two: I plant and protect. Our tomato beds are wrapped in plastic during the winter, and sited along a south facing fence. We put black mulching paper against the fence, and it gets nice and toasty in there, even on the coolest of days (and yes, it does get cold in the desert.)

I am also working with microclimates in my yard. I have a north facing bed that is useless in the winter – no sun. But in spring and summer? It grows great broccoli! Simply because it is protected from the brutal sun, and it’s light enough to grow during the lengthening days of spring and summer. So it pays to be familiar with your yard, and the “micro-climates” within it.

Right now the weather has continued too hot, with highs in the upper 90’s, for planting salad crops. But the “salad bed” is ready for: lettuce, mesclun, beets, snap peas, onions, carrots & radishes, chard & bok choy. More on these in upcoming posts!

Happy gardening!


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