Friday, July 26, 2013

Southwestern Gardens Get Their "Second Wind" in the Autumn

Flourishing tomatoes
Yes, friends, it is the moment we in the Southwest have been waiting for: Autumn! Since moving here five years ago, I have come to look forward to the cooler days of autumn more than any other time of year. A cool breeze is carried on the morning air and everything in the garden is given fresh new life. All those plants that had been languishing in the heat seem to perform on queue and seemingly overnight colour abounds. During the spring I planted several tomato plants and my yield was well below average. After consulting with friends in the SW Garden Forum, this is not unusual. When planting tomatoes here in the spring, they must bloom, set fruit and mature before the temperatures soar into the upper 90s and dreaded 100s. You can increase your chance of success by planting cherry tomatoes and yellow pears. The 'Sweet 100' tomatoes supposedly do well here throughout the summer as well. Not in my garden, I am sad to say. I have mentioned before that growing tomatoes here is an art form I have yet to perfect. As the days of summer started coming to an end, I was told DON'T remove your tomato plants. Trim them back a bit, fertilize them and you will reap the benefits of a second harvest. Well, I have done just that. I trimmed dead vines, picked off a few tomato horn worms (cheeky buggers), added some epsom salts and fertilizer made especially for tomatoes and now I will wait. The foliage is taking on a lovely bright green and the thumbnail size flowers are making a welcome appearance. Time will tell if the delicious fruit will follow.

Winter vegetables
With the tomatoes providing their encore performance, it is time to prepare the beds for a crop of winter vegetables. This is THE time of year to grow many varieties of vegetables in the low desert. I have consulted one of my desert gardening bibles,A Desert Gardener's Companionby Kim Nelson, and her words have spurred an excitement deep within. I am dedicating more and more of my garden to vegetables. In fact to prepare for this winter planting, I have donated many ornamentals to friends and family to make more room for food. Kim writes of peas, arugula, oak leaf lettuce, broccoli, beets, carrots, radishes, turnips, bush beans and onions.Renee's Garden Seedsoffered many of the varieties Kim wrote about. I am ecstatic that I will soon have a variety of carrots, broccoli, beans and peas in neat little rows in my newly prepared vegetable bed.

But wait, that's not all! I was speaking to a beloved member of our little forum and she mentioned I could also grow celery. I love celery and if I could have fresh celery from the garden in time for Thanksgiving, it would be a blessed day indeed! I purchased a variety called 'Tall Utah' fromTGN's Pumpkin Nook. This is the same variety the member of our forum grew, so I should have some success.

Get your nasturtiums started
In the SW Garden Forum, there seems to be a favorite plant among many of the members: nasturtiums. It is not hard to see why. The nasturtium is actually a herb known for its peppery tasting foliage and flowers. I love the nasturtium for its glorious, intricate flowers. There are many sites devoted to many varieties of these vintage garden staples. This year I ordered 'Peach Melba', 'Strawberry Ice', 'Creamsicle', 'Tip Top Mix' and 'Jewel' fromSunrise Seeds. Thank you Fish_Knees for letting me use the photo and to azreno for telling us all about Sunrise Seeds. It is a GREAT place to get a wide variety of Nasturtiums.

Don't forget the cool-season annuals
My garden is notcompletelydevoid of ornamentals. There are many plants who will always hold a special place in my heart, and consequently a place in my bit of earth. I will be honest and say I have never been a huge fan of annuals but there are some which tug at my heartstrings.Pansies, vintage stock and wallflowers can all be planted soon. It is the pansy that I love the most. Their smiley faces with radiant colours exude happiness and exemplify the care free nature a garden can evoke. Stay tuned for an article devoted entirely to these whimsical fancies of nature.

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