Garden Monthly Update: May 2016

Garden News

May was all about the tomatoes. I must have harvested 50lbs of heirloom tomatoes in May. The most productive plant was the one that popped up as a compost volunteer in October. I left it alone even though it was growing in the middle of the carrots I planted. Turned out that the carrots grew fine and in turn protected the tomato plant through the winter, so when the temperatures warmed up in February, the tomato plant took off. I was able to harvest the carrots and then the tomato was left to take over the area. The black krim heirloom tomato seems to be very hardy to our desert conditions. I did have several tomato plants that began in February and they did produce some fruit, but much less than the October plant. May was also the month that the garlic was harvested and I am happy to report that it was a good year for garlic production. The eggplant took off in May and lots of bounty has been gathered and more to come. The pumpkins ripened and the plants were removed. The watermelon and cantaloupe plants are coming along nicely, but no fruit yet. The zucchini produced several small squash, but is struggling a bit in the sun/heat, so I have provided some shade for the plant to see if I can keep it going. The biggest surprise was the late season romaine that I planted with little hope that it would mature, but it did well and now I have some late season lettuce. I did have to provide the lettuce planting area with shade and this seemed to work very well and now I have several cucumber plants that are doing very well in this same area. The pepper plants, chili and sweet, are doing really well and have been supplying us with peppers through May and expect June will be good for bell peppers as they are just starting to turn red. I continued to harvest the herbs and dry them, and the basil, which does like the warmer weather, is really filling out. The grape vine has tripled in size and multiple clusters of grapes have been spotted.

In May I planted okra, sweet potato, sunflowers and zinnia.


May Harvest picture - swiss chard, zucchini, carrot, savoy cabbage, pumpkin, red bell pepper, ancho, cayenne, jalapeno, serrano peppers, black krim tomatoes, fairy tale eggplant, columbine flowers, cherry tomatoes.


Planting guide updates include - Starting Seeds: Testing germination, Pre-soaking, Scaring, Stratification, Indoor propagation



So many beautiful tomatoes and many were shared with our friends.


The pumpkins ripened and were harvested.


A good garlic harvest this year with big bulbs.


I was able to transplant several purple cabbage plants to a shady area and they are surviving.


The late planting of romaine in a shady location gave us a late season lettuce harvest.


The onions have not matured yet and may not quite make it before they will need to be pulled.


The spring cauliflower plants did not produce nice tight white heads and suffered from the aphid infestation.


It got too hot for the 2nd late planting of cilantro, so it went to seed, which was harvested as coriander seed for cooking.

"Hot" Topic

Shade - Make sure your vulnerable plants have shade for the hot summer months. This includes most plants except the okra, sweet potato, grape, squash and sunflowers which will do fine in the summer sun. I use a heavier shade cloth at least 50% reduction for any plants that do not get natural shade from trees, yard location, etc.

Tip of the Month

Coffee ground soil pick-me-up - spread dry used coffee grounds around your plants, or mix 1 cup coffee grounds with 2 cups water and apply around plants. You can get free coffee grounds at any star bucks.

June Do List

  • Provide shade for vulnerable plants. Shade cloth with 50% reduction is recommended

  • Water deciduous fruit trees on 7 to 10 day deep-water cycle for the summer. Resulting fruit will be larger.

  • June is the driest month, so check your watering system and frequency as the temperatures begin to rise. remember to water deeply. Flower beds will need water every other day through the summer.

  • Stake taller flowers to prevent damage from summer winds.

  • Keep plants moist. Wilted leaves in the morning are a sign of moisture stress. Late afternoon wilting may be heat stress. Outdoor potted plants may need to be watered 2 times per day.

  • As your melons come in, place a board beneath them. This will keep them off the moist soil and prevent insects from attacking them.

  • Begin harvesting onions and garlic.


1. Blackberries' new growth to a 3 foot height to enhance side branching after harvesting.

2. Shrubs and trees need dead and damaged wood removed.


1. Apply Texas greensand to help with iron deficiency, which results in yellow leaves.

2. Organic ground or foliar spray the garden plants every 2 weeks

Pest Control

1. Release beneficial' s like nematodes to control fleas, ticks and chiggers.

2. Use powerful soapy water spray to remove aphids & spider mites

June Don't List

  • Don't over water. Yes, it's very hot in the desert in June, so it might seem like watering more is the answer. Not necessarily true. Water slowly (prevents run off), deeply (use a soil probe or a long handled screwdriver to check that the water is penetrating 2-3 ft. deep for trees and shrubs, and 1- 1 1/2 ft. deep for turf & flowers), and infrequently (let the soil dry between watering).

  • Do not prune citrus during the summer.

  • Don't shade corn, squash, melons, black-eyed peas, okra, or grapes.

  • Don't add fertilizer to dry soil. If you apply dry fertilizer on dry soil and water it in, the fertilizer is carried toward the roots as a concentrated solution and will burn them. Always water first, then apply fertilizers to moist soils, and then continue with the rest of the water.

June Planting


Seeds - Armenian cucumber

Transplants - Sweet potato


Herbs: Basil

Flowers: Celosia, Cosmos, Mirabilis, Hollyhock, Portulaca, Sunflower, Vinca, Zinnia.

Fruit: Cantaloupe


Recipe of the Month

- Balsamic Tomato & Mozzarella salad, -Glazed Peppers & Peas, - Kale salad w/Oranges -  I decided to include several of our favorite lite summer side dishes this month. Enjoy!


New! Best Advice


All the good advice does not always mean success, so keep experimenting with the types of plants and location as well as conditions (shade versus full sun). I found after experimenting, that the east side of my house was the best location to grow basil and snow peas. I shied away from growing cauliflower for many years as the books always touted how the soil needed to be just right, but finally decided to try it and found that it was not hard to grow at all in good healthy composted soil. So keep trying new plants/seeds, locations and don't give up if it does not work the first time. I struggled to grow tomatoes for many years, but finally had success with compost volunteers. Many plants do well in pots, and it is easier to test out locations, sun versus shade with a potted plant that can be relocated. I still grow many plants in pots, mainly eggplant and chili peppers as I can relocate them as needed for summer and winter conditions.


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

Web Sites:




Q: What is dry land or dry farming?


A: Basically, dry farming is growing crops without any irrigation to supplement rainfall. This does not mean your tomatoes or other fruiting plants will not be watered, just that you are not irrigating them yourself with drip irrigation or other watering methods. The plants are watered only by rainfall. Of course in extreme drought conditions you will need to water the plants a little to keep them alive. Under normal weather conditions, dry farming is used. Dry farming is a very simple process where you plant and water your fruit plants/tomatoes just as you normally would until the plant begins setting fruit. Once the fruit appears on the plant, you cease to water it.


The advantage to dry farming is to create a more flavorful tomato or fruit because the plant will concentrate its sugars into the fruit, and can also help the fruit ripen much quicker.

Of course, there are obvious advantages in regards to water conservation, and a reduction in water costs if you are using city supplied water for your plants.


Disadvantages of dry farming, is that it increases the chances of blossom end rot  for tomatoes due to the fluctuations in watering. This can also cause some cracking or splitting of the tomatoes/fruit if water fluctuations are drastic. Dry farming can also reduce yield sizes, and can promote smaller fruit. Tomato plants may also look straggly and foliage changes could occur. If the plant begins to severely wilt, you may need to irrigate moderately.


Dry farming was successfully used for 100's of years by the native American Indians and has gained more recognition recently in the west and southwest due to the continued drought situation. The University of Santa Cruz is conducting a study on the effects of dry farming tomatoes and there are some small scale farmers who are using this technique today in California and the southwest.


If you try dry farming tomatoes, be aware that you may need to supplement the rain water.


1. Space water out more after 10 days from transplanting, and ensure that plants are receiving 1 to 3 inches (2.5 cm to 7.6 cm) of rain weekly. If not, give each plant about 2 gallons (about 7.5 litres) per plant "per week", beginning by about the end of the second week after transplanting.

Water deeply 2 to 3 times weekly (so, water each plant with about .75 to 1 gallon each time (about 3 to 4 litres), increase water as the plants get larger and when weather is hotter.

It's okay in hot or dry weather to water even more frequently with larger volumes.


You can find more information at these URLs:


May Preview

Dry Farming

April Pictures

Link to Photos Here


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