Sunday, May 3, 2009

Growing Season

A more successful and much larger garden than mine at The Farm at South Mountain. This photo was taken in late September.

#8 How long is the growing season where you live?

Growing food in Phoenix is a year round affair, as long as you have water, which, thanks to humongous water projects by CAP (Central Arizona Project canals) and SRP (Salt River Project reservoirs), we have been conditioned to believe we have an abundant supply of. With no significant frost, an attentive gardener can nurture veggies right through the winter solstice here. Diligent growers can also plant and harvest two seasons of annual crops, starting in August and January, according to "Desert Gardening for Beginners" by Cromell, Guy and Bradley. Most gardeners in the area take a break during the hot summer months, from June through August, to let themselves and their land restore themselves.

Timing is everything, as with most anything we do, but especially when it comes to gardening. Last year I attempted to grow squash from seed starting in October, which is way off, since these are one plant that wilts at any hint of frost. Although rare, frost does happen for a few early morning hours during December and January most years, and one morning hovering around 30F is all it takes to put an end to a hearty thirty-foot squash vine. Had I consulted the handy gardening calendar in the above mentioned text, I would have learned that planting in any month between January and July will work for squash to grow to fruit, but forget it after August. I also would have escaped the tragedies of my spring planting of frost tolerant lettuce, kale, broccoli and spinach, which all prefer the fall growing season beginning in August.

So now I'm keeping it very simple, and planted six zucchini transplants yesterday. The book says seeds should go in no later than mid-April, so I'm crossing my fingers that the month old seedlings will be okay. Since the cats have become accustomed to using the fallow garden beds as a "powder room," each plant is protected with a vine cage. I estimate that we will be blessed with an abundant supply of zucchini within a couple of months. We also have a potted herb garden with spearmint, basil, oregano, sage and rosemary to season it with. And a strawberry plant that, if we are lucky, will produce a few succulent snacks by late summer. But that one isn't even listed in the desert gardening book, so we and our suppliers, Home Depot, may be hopelessly optimistic. Thank goodness Safeway is less than a mile away!

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