Thursday, November 4, 2010

Mild November days remind us to slow down and relish in the fact that we have survived the summer onc e again. Here in the low desert of Phoenix we have two growing seasons.This cool season weather is the perfect time to sow peas, root crops, leafy greens and a long list of cabbage family crops. Plant cool-season herbs and edible flowers, experiment with new tastes and textures in your Autumn dishes. One of my favorite herbs is dill. I love the delicate, feathery-like leaves or fronds. It reminds me of a fairy land, especially when the flower heads form into little yellow umbrellas and turn into seeds! Dill is easy to grow from seeds. Sow them in full sun and well-drained soil. Plant in the back of the garden bed. They can grow up to 3 feet tall. Cut fresh as needed. Fronds, flower heads and seeds are all edible. After you have had your fill, dry for later use. Spread fronds out on a paper towel and air dry, or microwave for 3 minutes. Remove thick stems and crumble. Store in an airtight container. When seedheads form, let them dry and remove seeds. Add to fish dishes, dips, soups and salads. Leave a few seedheads to dry in your garden for self-seeding.

November Checklist ~
  • 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!