Garden Monthly Update: April 2017

Garden News

As my lettuce was all harvested in March, kale became the leafy green for April! I continued to harvest cabbage in April and only have a few heads still to harvest. The brussel sprouts have budded, but were not quite ready for harvest in April. I began to harvest the bulb onions planted back in October and the garlic will be ready in May. I collected a nice big bag of broccoli seed that can be used for growing sprouts and or plants next year. The bees love the broccoli flowers, so these plants really gave it all up this year. The zucchini planted in March have really started to put out in the last couple weeks with about 18 large zucchini harvested in the last 2 weeks from 2 plants. The tomatillo's began to set fruit, and I have harvested a few small ones that were ready, so hopefully the temperature will stay around average in May to allow them to mature.

I planted okra and jicama in April and the seedling's are doing great. I am happy to report that my chayote vine has really taken off and I am really excited to see how well it produces. The first of the sunflower seeds planted in April are already young seedling's and the smaller variety should bloom in May. The armenian cucumber seedling's planted in April are doing well.

The melon seeds have sprouted and are doing well so far.

The tomato or tobacco (typical kind found in AZ) hornworms are hatching. I have removed at least a dozen small ones from a couple tomato plants. So, you will need to keep an eye out for these and pick them off when you see them. You can spot their damage as they will literally eat the leaves off an entire branch, but also keep an eye out for their droppings (little black pellets) around the area they are hanging out.

 

More info on hornworms:

http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/r783301111.html

http://www.extension.umn.edu/garden/insects/find/tomato-hornworms-in-home-gardens/

https://cals.arizona.edu/maricopa/garden/html/t-tips/bugs/hornworm.htm

 

Web site updates - Separate recipe page and separate Q&A page added for easy access to all recipes and Q&A's.

 

April garden harvest picture - kale, red cabbage, eggplant, onions, peppers, zucchini, tarragon, parsley, sage, thyme, marjoram, oregano and chive, gaillardia & nasturtium flowers.

 

Highlights

The chayote is thriving!

The okra, sunflower, melon, and cucumber seeds sprouted.

Three jicama seedling's are growing.

Lolights

My spring tomato plants did not bear much fruit.

The late season leafy greens I planted, succumbed to the high heat and bolted early.

The hornworms are here!

"Hot" Topic

Proper soil structure -  Your vegetable garden will need a rich, well draining soil with plenty of organic matter. Clay is very abundant in nutrients, but without the proper structure the plants can not access those nutrients. A soil that is 50% solid and 50% open or pore space is desired. Loam soil is ideal at 15% clay, and 85% silt/sand. We have been using 3 parts compost, to 1 part native or clay soil, and 1/2 part sand mixture, which produces a soil that when tested using the jar test, is a nice loam.

Jar soil test:

Determine your soil structure by placing at least a cup of sifted soil (go down 3"-6") to a large straight wall jar (quart size or larger) then add 1 tsp of salt and 1 tsp of laundry detergent along with water to almost full and seal the top (mason jars work well). Shake vigorously 5 - 10 minutes, to break up and mix soil with the water. Then let it set undisturbed until the water on top is clear. At this point you should be able to see different layers. The sand will be at the bottom, then silt, then clay will be the top layer. If you have a good loam soil, then you will not see any discernable layers.

 

More on soil: https://cals.arizona.edu/pubs/garden/mg/soils/soils.html

Tip of the Month

Thin & protect your fruit - Thinning the fruit will allow the remaining fruit to grow to its maximum size. Some natural thinning will occur via the wind, seasonal or immature fruit, but thinning early can benefit the remaining fruit and the plant. Fruit thinning is most beneficial for the stone fruit trees, apples plus pears and grapes. Thinning is not typically done for figs, persimmons, pomegranates or citrus. Birds are attracted to red & ripened fruit, whether it be tomatoes, peaches, plums or grapes. You can use bird netting on trees, but these can harm the birds and lizards, so a better alternative would be mosquito netting as the fine mesh will keep the critters out, but they will not get trapped in it. You can protect your grape clusters and pomegranates by placing a small paper bag over them and stapling it in place.

Fruit tree thinning resource: http://homeorchard.ucdavis.edu/8047.pdf & http://homeorchard.ucanr.edu/The_Big_Picture/Fruit_Thinning/ & https://cals.arizona.edu/yavapai/anr/hort/byg/archive/fruitthinning.html

May Do List

1. Increase water application as the weather warms. Vegetables to 1', small-medium shrubs 2' and trees to 3' deep. Use a soil probe (long thin metal device like a long screw driver) to check water depth (probe should easily penetrate in moist soil and stop at dry soil).

2. Water trees (special attention to deciduous) deep (down to 3ft) and every 7 - 14 days.

3. Apply mulch to keep roots cool and reduce evaporation.

4. Place shade cloth (no more than 50%) over tomatoes to keep out leaf hoppers.

5. Cover fruit trees with mosquito cloth to protect from birds.

 

Reference: https://cals.arizona.edu/maricopa/garden/html/t-tips/may.htm

May Don't List

1. Don't prune citrus, except for dead or damaged branches.

2. Don't use pre-emergent in areas that you plan to plant seeds.

May Planting

Vegetables: (Blue font identifies "ideal" planting time items)

Seeds - okra

Transplants - sweet potato

 

Herbs: Basil, Lemon grass

 

Flowers: Begonias, Celosia, Cosmos, Hollyhock, Mirabilis jalapa, Marigold, Sunflower, Vinca, Zinnia.

 

Fruit:  Cantaloupe

            - Transplants: all sub-tropical

 

Recipe of the Month

-  Onion Soup

 -  It is time to harvest those home grown onions and this is a lovely way to use some of them.

 

Best Advice

Plant by Temperature: For the past 2 years in the Phoenix area, our winters have been more mild and our spring hotter than average. This has implications when it comes to planning/planting/growing your vegetable garden. The more mild winters can allow a longer season for frost sensitive plants like tomatoes, which may mean you can harvest tomatoes all winter long. On the other side, hotter spring temperatures can impact your cool weather crops by triggering them to bolt early and shorten the planting and harvest time, like cilantro and leafy greens. Try to plan your planting time at the proper temperature for that plant using the planting calendar as a guide only. Choose early maturing varieties (as indicated on seed packaging) as our growing seasons are short due to very hot summers and very cold nighttime temperatures in winter.

Favorites

Garden Books: Extreme Gardening by Dave Owens and Desert Gardening for Beginners by Cathy Cromell, Linda Guy and Lucy Bradley.

Web Sites:

 

Questions/Answers

Q: Why are my summer squash not setting fruit and when they do the fruit turns yellow and dies?

A: Young squash plants will first produce only male flowers, so you will not get any viable fruit until the plant is also producing the female flowers that can be cross-pollinated to produce the fruit. Squash is a type of plant that requires pollination from male to female flower. Many of our helpful European honey bees have been annihilated by people trying to protect themselves from Africanized honey bees. In addition, many bees have been killed by mites. As a result they are not available to assist with pollination. Squash, melons, cucumbers and other vegetables that have separate male and female flowers will benefit from hand pollination. Early in the morning use a cotton swab to take pollen from the male flower and place it female flower.

Did you know! (New)

Food security is an issue for millions of people including the elderly that are on fixed incomes. If you grow more produce than you can use, there are many local food pantry's that you can donate your extra fresh produce. You can look up local food pantry's for drop off days and hours, using your zip code at: http://ampleharvest.org/

2017 Preview

Biointensive Gardening, Square foot Gardening, planting guide updates

April Pictures

Link to Photos Here

 

Related Topics

.