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Garden Update

Well, it’s almost July and its so hot here that it seems like everything is wilting… especially me. Luckily however, my garden seems to be doing very well, and that always makes me smile.

I think the garden cover that we installed a few weeks ago has really helped. The area that we planted inis not very shady, so the extra UV protection really perked up my seedlings.

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… and now my seedlings are not seedlings anymore. They are full grown plants! Here’s how they look now:

Cabbage:

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Turnips:

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Jalapenos:

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Snap Peas:

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Cantaloupe:

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Zucchini:

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In an effort to eat as organic and non-GMO as possible, we have decided to start a home vegetable garden, compost, and join a CSA.

The garden is really just in the beginning stages, and most of what we have planted won’t be ready to harvest until July or August. There will also be a lot of trial and error, so bear with me as I learn all about seed saving, avoiding cross-pollination, and finding crops that can sustain our harsh Phoenix weather.

Here are a few of my seedlings so far:  

I am working on the rocks… This area was completely covered in gravel, so it’s going to take a while to pick them all out by hand.

So far, we are growing:

  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Swiss Chard
  • Turnips
  • Cantaloupe
  • Jalapeno
  • Zucchini
  • Snow Peas
  • Red and Green Bell Peppers
  • Chinese Cabbage
  • Tomatoes
  • Carrots
  • Eggplant

I will try to keep you posted on their progress as much as possible. I can’t wait for the harvest!

On Composting:

When it comes to organic gardening, I have been told that composting is very important. It provides the necessary nutrients that plants may not find in soil, and it allows you to grow large and healthy plants without the use of chemically based fertilizers.  Also, since Arizona soil does not have many nutrients, I think it will prove doubly important in our case.

So, here are our compost bins.

I found them at Home Depot for $7 each! They were marked down from $49. We have two because the plan is to fill one bin for 2 months, and then let it work it’s magic while we fill the other bin and so on. Therefore, we will ideally always have compost available.

Lastly, I mentioned that we decided to join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture.) They provide you with one box each week of organic, locally grown produce and the fee is typically around $20 per week.

Most CSAs require at least 3-months payment up front in order to pay for their next season’s crops. Now, that’s all well and good, but for someone like me who has never tried a CSA, 3 months is quite a committment.

My reasons being:

  • It might prove too difficult to plan my weekly menus around what I am given in my share.
  • There may be a lot of waste if the share is too large.
  • We might get a box full of veggies we don’t usually like to eat.

That’s why I felt lucky to find Chow Locally, a week-by-week CSA with a pick up location at the Phoenix Public Market! I’m usually there on Saturdays anyways, so it’s the perfect pick up location, and I was able to purchase some produce at the market this weekend from a few of the farms that they work with. We were very impressed with the quality… especially the carrots and onions which were much more juicy than anything I have found at Sprouts.

I pick up my first box on Saturday, and I will have to let you know what we get.

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Let me start by saying that I am a big fan of gardening.

All year-long, I wait for the few short months when I can waste time and money on plants that will only live to make my yard beautiful while the weather is bearable (3-5 months)… and belive me, I have wasted a lot of time, energy and resources on this venture.

Regardless, I can’t give up my love of gardening,  so I had to find ways to “smart garden.” (a.k.a. identifying and abiding by your hardiness zones.)

Here is an example of the hardiness zone map from the National Arboretum:

If you go to their website, you can zoom in and find your region, mine is the Southwest… and based on this map, I live in hardiness Zone 10.

Note: Most maps don’t vary much. Some are more elaborate and might say that you are in Zone 10a, 10b, or 10c for instance, but for all intents and purposes you don’t need to go into that much detail regarding your zone, and there doesn’t seem to be much disagreement between map makers on the general zone lines.

So, you say.  I’m in Zone 10… What does that mean? Well, Zone 10 is a very hot, dry place for most of the year. Which translates into, “Sarah, you can not grow your favorite plants where you live. That’s right… no peonies, ranunculus, hydrangea etc. Even growing grass will be a challenge here.”

… and if you know me, you know very well that I don’t take “NO” for an answer. Especially when someone is so rude about it.

Regardless, my residence in Zone 10 left me a very sad gardener… Until I found this tool!

http://www.burpee.com/gardening/content/gygg/growing-zone/growingzoneinfo.html

The Burpee seed buying guide is based on hardiness zone. It allows me to select from hundreds of plants which are almost guaranteed to grow where I live, if given the proper care and attention, and I was also able to research specific varietals of my favorite plants which are more tolerant to the harsh Arizona climate.

For instance, the tree peony has a much better chance of living than a bush peony in Arizona. Here is an example of a tree peony:

I don’t think they are quite as beautiful as the regular peony varietals, but they sure do beat my 4 dead bushes from last year.

There are also some varieties of Hydrangeas that have a chance in AZ, such as the White King varietal.

(Image from Burpee)

So, I’ve decided to compromise with mother nature, and I realize that there are some realities that I am going to have to live with in Arizona. Like the fact that I will probably never have the manicured English garden I have always dreamed of.

However, with new knowledge and tools, I think I am a  much smarter and hopefully more successful gardener despite my climatic limitations, and I hope you find them useful too!

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