Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southwestern Deserts
March, 2005
Regional Report

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Enjoy mustard and salad greens before they bolt!

Vegetable Gardens in Transition

There's plenty to do in the vegetable garden right now. It seems that when cool-season vegetable beds start to really look full and fabulous, they decide to play tricks on the gardener and go to flower, or bolt! And yet the warm-season garden isn't ready to fill in.

Even though we're in transition between our cool and warm growing seasons, there's still time to sow a late crop of carrots, green onions, and radishes. You can also sow fast-maturing lettuces (not heads) to enjoy as baby greens.

Snap peas are loaded with pods, ripe for the grazing. Harvest existing salad greens before they bolt and become bitter. My favorite volunteer arugula patch is displaying towering, white flower stalks, fueled by loads of rain in the last couple of weeks. The white flowers sparkle against the vibrant green foliage, and pink globe mallow is intermixed, creating a lovely color combination.

Transplanting the Heat-Lovers
Tomatoes and pepper plants should be transplanted in the low desert by mid-month to ensure they get a good jump-start before summer heat arrives. Higher elevations can wait, but get them in the ground as soon as the last frost date is past. Choose fast-maturing varieties with smaller fruits. Those big beefsteaks crack and just don't perform very well in our arid conditions.

It's also time to sow snap and lima beans, as well as the first planting of sweet corn. Some folks start sowing warm-season veggies like melons, cukes, and okra, but I have better luck holding off until the soil warms up a bit more.

Feed the Soil
The best thing you can do to ensure a healthy vegetable garden is to add copious amounts of compost before each planting season. Yup, that means in fall for the cool season, and again in spring for the warm season. Layer 4 to 6 inches of well-aged organic matter on top of the soil and dig it in to a depth of 12 to 18 inches. Over time, the soil in your veggie beds will become rich and dark, and earthworms will magically appear!

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