- Have frost cloth ready in case of a predicted freeze for frost sensitive plants. Use frost cloth or old sheets (we double our layers and keep our fingers crossed!) to cover tomatoes and peppers. If possible, cover all the way to the ground to keep warmth in. Wait until the later part of February to trim any affected frost damage.Winter vegetables will usually survive the frosts. Watch your local weather reports. The last frost date is usually March 15th.
- Citrus trees begin to ripen, be ready to harvest sweet, juicy, lemons, oranges and grapefruit.
- Continue to sow or transplant cool weather vegetables. Root crops, lettuces and members of the cabbage family can be planted until early spring. Favorite salad ingredients can continue to produce until the temperatures heat up in late spring.
- Examine your crops for pests, look under leaves and around the base of the plant for looper-worms, especially on your cole crops. Hand pick if possible. If the little green caterpillars get out of hand, most nurseries recommend B.T. as an organic control. If birds are a problem, place netting over garden area.
- Local nurseries will begin to stock bare-root plants (roses and fruit trees) at the end of December. Plan and prepare a nice sunny location for planting next month. Pre-dig your hole and add a little mulch, compost and gypsum or sand. Fill the hole with water to soften the soil in preparation for the new tree roots. Research your southwest desert varieties. Choose varieties that require no more than 250 chilling hours.
- If you like tomatoes and peppers, try some heirloom varieties from seed this year. Plant seeds to produce your own transplants for spring planting. Sow seeds indoors around the end of the month. Choose varieties that will do well in our desert climate. (nativeseeds.org). Transplants should be ready to plant outside from mid-Feb to mid-March.
- Feed vegetables a good, well balanced fertilizer every couple of weeks. Don't over fertilize herbs if they look healthy and green.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Thursday, November 4, 2010
- Adjust watering schedule as weather cools. Water deeply so moisture will reach the root system, but less frequently as the season changes.
- Inspect vegetables closely for insects, pests and diseases.Keep an eye out for little green caterpillars or Cabbage Loopers. This is also the time of year for aphids. Rub out or pinch out at first sign of the ash colored cluster. Also try using a soapy spray by mixing 1 tbsp. each of Dawn dish soap and vegetable oil with 1 gallon water. Spray in early morning or evening. Make sure you spray the underside of leaves. With early detection, you're more likely to manage or prevent any major damage to plants.
- Dead-head spent blooms and harvest veggies to stimulate continued growth.
- Continue to sow cool-weather annuals and biennials every 2 to 4 weeks through the fall for a continuous crop of vegetables through next spring.
- Thin seedlings as they grow to prevent crowding, this gives your young plants plenty of room to grow. Use scissors to cut seedlings at ground level. Wash and toss these sprouts into your salad.
- Be prepared for early winter frost. Average first frost date takes place around the end of November to the first week of December. We usually have 7 to 10 nights of below freezing temperatures a year. Check out the National Weather Service for more up to date information. Cover frost sensitive plants with a sheet, light blanket or frost cloth (not plastic) all the way to the ground. Frost-tender veggies include; Tomatoes, bell peppers, and eggplants. Paper bags or boxes are great for low lying plants. Floating row covers are another option. If a hard freeze is forcast, try using outdoor Christmas lights under cover for extra warmth. Coldest temperatures are just before sunrise.
- Fall brings cool weather and an abundance of free organic matter. As trees begin to drop leaves, bag and save for compost pile, mulching or adding to layered garden beds. Mow over leaves a couple of times for a ready-to-use mulch. You can never have too many bags of leaves!
Sunday, October 3, 2010
The Barefoot Contessa never lets me down. I have all of her cookbooks and her recipes are great. Even cutting back on the rich ingredients I have had great luck with her recipes. I found this recipe in her Barefoot in Paris book. It is excellent. And I think it would be great served with grilled chicken.
But pretty much anything hidden below the conncoction of ricotta cheese, parmesan, and marinara sauce, all toasty and bubbly on top, would taste good.
Good olive oil, for frying (this always cracks me up--"good olive oil")
3/4 pound eggplant, unpeeled, sliced 1/2-inch thick
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
1 extra-large egg
1/4 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup good bottled marinara sauce
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Heat about 1/8-inch of olive oil in a very large frying pan over medium heat. When the oil is almost smoking, add several slices of eggplant and cook, turning once, until they are evenly browned on both sides and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Be careful, it splatters! Transfer the cooked eggplant slices to paper towels to drain. Add more oil, heat, and add more eggplant until all the slices are cooked.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the ricotta, egg, half-and-half, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.
In each of 2 individual gratin dishes, place a layer of eggplant slices, then sprinkle with Parmesan, salt and pepper and spoon 1/2 of the marinara sauce. Next, add a second layer of eggplant, more salt and pepper, half the ricotta mixture, and finally 1 tablespoon of grated Parmesan on top.
Place the gratins on a baking sheet and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the custard sets and the top is browned. Serve warm.
Note: I cooked the eggplant in a very seasoned pan and did not need to use much olive oil. I also substituted regular milk for the half and half. And I made one gratin not two.
Sunday, September 5, 2010
September To-Do List
- Organic matter is used up as it feeds organisms and is changed into humus. Refresh garden beds and boxes with 4 to 6 inches of a combination of compost, well-aged manure or organic matter. Turn into soil to a depth of 12 to 14 inches. Use a spading fork rather than a shovel, it breaks up clumps and aerates the soil.
- Sow seeds for snap beans, beets, bok choy, cucumbers, green onion, kale, leaf lettuce radish and turnips (see planting calender for complete list).
- Save bags of grass clippings, leaves from fall foliage, shredded newspaper and spent summer annuals for use in your compost bins. Stop by your neighborhood coffee shop and ask for their coffee grounds.
- Trim back tomato and pepper plants that made it through the summer to encourage another crop.
- If you did not fertilize citrus in August, feed with the final application of nitrogen for the year.
- Lightly trim roses as soon as new growth begins to about one-third. Work in alfalfa meal, blood meal or fish emulsion for added nitrogen. For phosphorus add bone meal, or rock phosphate. Water to a depth of two feet.
- Set out strawberry plants. A garden just isn't complete without a strawberry patch. Strawberries grow well in lower desert regions of Arizona. If you want a good crop of strawberries later in the year, September is the best time to plant. This ensures that the plant has time to become well-established with a strong root system by January. This is when the strawberry plants flower and set fruit. For a nice strawberry patch you will need an area about 4ft x 4ft, plant about 4 inches apart, giving plenty of room for runners to fill in the bed. Use lots of organic compost and make sure the drainage is good. Sprinkle a little bone meal over soil monthly and water in. Set your plants in the ground at the same level they were growing in the nursery container. Raised beds are perfect for a strawberry patch. Choose a location that receives at least six to eight hours of sun. In case of a frost this winter, cover with clear plastic for a greenhouse effect. In the summer keep shaded from the direct sun. Layer straw under the strawberries to keep soil moist and to discourage slugs and pill bugs from munching on your ripe berries. Mulch to maintain consistent soil moisture. Varieties that are well-adapted to our low desert climate are, Chandler, Sequoia, Tioga, Shasta and Camarosa. Strawberries are easy to grow and always provide a pleasant surprise when you find your first red berry at the peak of ripeness!
Monday, August 23, 2010
Things to do in August
Prepare fall beds, spread 4-6 inches of compost or well-aged manure on top of soil. Turn in to a depth of 12 to 18 inches.
Deadhead flowers and harvest vegetables to promote continued production. Remove spent and dried plants that didn't make it through the summer.
Sow seeds for a second crop of summer squash, sweet corn, cucumbers, snap beans and carrots.
After August 15th you may begin to sow fall vegetables (see planting calendar ). Carefully monitor your watering.
Fertilize citrus trees a with nitrogen rich citrus feed, water at a depth of 3 feet at the trees outer canopy.
Plant Sweet Corn by the end of August, choose varieties that mature within 65 to 80 days. Amend soil with organic matter(nitrogen) and keep seeds moist until sprouting.
Trim back tomato plants by 1/3 to encourage new growth as weather cools.
Wait for the cool Autumn breeze!
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Muffins in May? Is that odd? Since zucchini will soon be in abundance I thought I would be prepared with a few great recipes.
This recipe comes from the June 2009 issue of Cooking Light magazine. I added walnuts since I like a little crunch in my muffins, and zucchini and walnuts are a good combination. I also mixed in the little tiny bits of walnut dust with the cinnamon and sugar sprinkling it on top of the unbaked muffins. Mmmm, good.
Can't tell you if they freeze well since they didn't last long.
4.75 ounces whole-wheat flour (about 1 cup)
3 ounces all-purpose flour (about 2/3 cup)
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups shredded zucchini
1/2 cup fat-free milk
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 large egg
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1. Preheat oven to 400°.
2. Weigh or lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine whole-wheat flour and next 6 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl; stir with a whisk. Combine zucchini, milk, oil, honey, and egg in a small bowl; stir until blended. Make a well in center of flour mixture; add milk mixture, stirring just until moist. Spoon batter into 12 muffin cups coated with cooking spray.
3. Combine 1 tablespoon sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon; sprinkle over tops of muffins. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until golden. Remove from pans immediately; cool on a wire rack.
Monday, May 10, 2010
It seems as though spring has had a hard time leaving us this year. That's ok with me, but my tomatoes and peppers are having a hard time adjusting to the fluctuating temperatures! With this fair weather and a little digging, a vegetable garden becomes a family affair. Fast growing choices for kids might include: patty pan squash, cantaloupes, watermelon, and armenian cucumbers. Of course, the summer isn't summer without sitting in the shade of a sunflower house. (Plant sunflower seeds in a circle). Hopefully, cherry tomatoes were planted earlier in the season and are ready for little hands to pick while meandering in the garden. Here's the list of things to do for the month of May.
Continue to plant warm season vegetables, flowers, container fruit trees and citrus trees.
Transplant basil, garlic chives, lemon grass, oregano and mint.
Warm weather flowers include, marigolds, purslane, portulaca, sweet alyssum, scented geranium, zinnia, verbena and sunflower.
Citrus trees need to be fertilized, always water thoroughly before adding fertilizer.
As weather warms, increase your watering. Water deeply and slowly, but infrequently. Don't let soil get bone dry though. Check and reprogram water systems.
Add mulch, straw or compost around the base of each plant to help retain moisture.
Deciduous fruit trees should be thinned so fruit is 4 to 6 inches apart. (Just keep thinning! )Be prepared with bird netting and ladders as fruit ripens. Place netting before fruit is ripe! Another method is to pick the fruit before it's ripe and let it ripen indoors in brown paper bags. Water trees deeply to a depth of three feet every 7 to 10 days to provide moisture as fruit size increases.
Have shade cloth on hand to cover tomatoes as temps rise to the 95 to 100 degree range. Gently shake stems early in the morning to help pollination tomato flowers.
Feed roses every two weeks during their peak bloom season. Water deeply to 18 inches.
Harvest onions, garlic and chives.Enjoy the merry, merry month of May!
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Here's the list for the month
- Plant deciduous fruit trees. If you are planting bare-root trees, get them in the ground as soon as possible. Don't let the roots dry out. Take the tree out of the bag and set it in a barrel of water with a little vitamin B. Let it soak overnight. Have your holes pre-dug and soil mixture ready. Here is a list of fruit and nut trees for the low desert. Many nurseries have potted fruit trees available. You can plant these any time in the next few weeks.
- Start taste testing citrus fruits for sweetness. Navel, sweet oranges, mandarins and tangelos are close to harvest time.
- Continue to sow seeds or transplants of cool-season vegetables for a continuous supply of salad greens and root vegetables until warm weather arrives.
- Time to plant bare-root roses. Find a location where roses have filtered afternoon shade. Valley nurseries have hundreds of roses available. Rose societies will be offering how-to clinics for pruning and planting. Take advantage of the expert knowledge of the valley rosarians. Check out the Maricopa County Extension's rose publication for more information.
- Prune established roses to encourage optimum blooming in April. Cut all canes back to approximately one half. Cut canes back to an outward facing bud. Remove dead canes. Remove old or weak canes. Strip off all leaves and dispose of them. Seal all cuts with Elmer's glue to seal new cuts. Don't be afraid. Practice makes perfect.
- Sow seeds of tomatoes, peppers eggplants and basil indoors in time to transplant in the garden in late February to early March.
- Continue to watch for freezing temperatures and protect frost-tender plants. The last average frost date is around February 15th.
- Watch for gray aphids on tender new growth and hose off regularly with a forceful spray of water. Also, looper-worms like to eat cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower. Check under leaves and near the base and pick off worms.
- This is a great time to add color and texture to your garden. Plant cool weather annuals between your vegetables. Calendulas, johnny-jump-ups, pansy, petunias, snapdragons and stocks will continue to bloom until spring. Cool-season herbs include, dill, parsley, cilantro and thyme.
- Prune deciduous fruit trees by the end of January or before flowering starts.
- If you are an adventurous gardener, plant asparagus now.
Have a great new year, and enjoy spring gardening in the desert!
Friday, January 1, 2010
Next step is to mix the garden mix to fill the boxes. Mr. Bartholomew has a special recipe that he developed which is 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 compost. The initial cost of this is a bit, but it is the only time you will have to do it. From here on you just keep adding compost which is quite inexpensive or free if you make your own compost, which I do.
Now I admit, I have only been doing this for 4 months and I will let you know how I feel about it in July and August when it is 115-120 degrees out there but since I usually didn’t garden in the summer, I will try it this year to see if I like it or not.