Sunday, April 26, 2009

Gardening News

Spring continues apace in our neck of the desert. There's been a lot of wind, but nothing out of the ordinary. Some springs are windier than others, and this one definitely counts as a windy one. Our last hard freezes were 24 degrees on April 7, and 25 deg. on April 17. The probability of frost is dropping significantly day-by-day. Once again, summer has gained the upper hand, and it's just a matter of time till we have triple-digit temperatures. We rarely have frost after May 1 here, and what freezes we do have don't cause any damage.

Here's my broccoli coldframe. For comparison, check my March 23 post, when these plants had just been planted. One of them has a broc on it already. We'll start cutting the main heads in 2-3 weeks, and then they'll put out side shoots until heat and insects finally put an end to them in late June. These plants are a bit crowded, but I wanted to get 9 in a coldframe. They do well this way, though.

Here's the lettuce coldframe. I bought a 9-pack of lettuce at a big box store to give me an early crop, and I planted lettuce seeds at the same time. We've been picking the outside leaves off the big plants for the past week, and have just started thinning and eating the small plants.

The tomato plants are emerging from their wall-o-waters. In case of late frost, I drape a towel or undershirt over each one at night. I leave the wall-o-waters in place till the middle of May, when frost danger is long past, because tropical plants like tomatoes prefer warm temperatures at night. The plants are covered with blooms now, and we usually get our first tomatoes by the first of June.
One big thing I've learned about gardening over the years is to till manure, hay, and any available organic matter into the soil every year. In our hot climate, organic matter quickly oxidizes away, and must be replaced every year. I like hay because it's cost-effective, readily available, and is odor-free.
I tried no-till gardening, but it didn't work well for me. If you dump hay or manure on the surface, a certain percentage of the nutrients will leach down with the irrigation water, but most of the organic matter just oxidizes away without providing much benefit. I've learned that it's necessary to incorporate the organic matter and nutrients into the root zone so the plants can make the most effective use of it.
I never tried double digging. It seems like a lot of extra trouble, and I've never seen any research comparing single and double digging. Do the extra yields (if any) provided by double digging compensate for the extra time and labor involved? Inquiring minds want to know. My single-digging method works just fine for me. I have always used a rototiller to do the heavy labor; I already have a sufficiency of heavy labor in my life. I can do all the rototilling for an entire year with 1 or 2 gallons of gasoline -- the equivalent of 2 trips into town. That's a lot of veggies for such a small amount of gasoline. I think we'd all be well advised to spend more time at home, digging in the dirt and eating the fruits of our labor, rather than being such good consumers all the time.


Post a Comment

<< Home