Let the New Garden Begin

It is hard to believe that just one week ago Phoenix was in the middle of the coldest prolonged weather it has experienced in 20 or 30 years. Although the temperatures were not cold compared to other parts of the country, they were cold for here – a few nights around 25 – 28 degrees. Today we might set a record high for this date. It is supposed to be in the 80s. It will be a couple of months before I really know what plants are truly dead and not coming back.

While covering and uncovering my pepper and tomatillo plants during this, the seed catalogs beckoned. Going through seed catalogs, both online and print, is like a little kid going through a toy catalog before Christmas to see what they want. Like kids going through a toy catalog, I want everything. The flowers, the vegetables, herbs, berries, exotic plants from around the world. Everything looks so good. Although I wish our area to garden was larger, maybe it is a good thing to be constrained. With a limited area to grow what we want, we have to prioritize. We have to decide whether we grow a large variety with limited quantity of each or a smaller variety of plants with a larger quantity of each. I think we are somewhere in the middle while emphasizing things we like and that are either hard to get or that we can grow better varieties of (think heirloom tomatoes).

This year we will have fewer carrots and more beets. Tomatillos were a big hit last year so we will grow a few more plants. I am even thinking of trying to graft a few plants onto tomato rootstock. In addition to the red and white bunching bulb onions we will be trying a drying red onion, mostly for salsa so not many may be left to store. I ordered tomato rootstock to graft the tomatoes I want onto. This will hopefully result in increased disease resistance and a more vigorous plant that can withstand greater temperature swings. The most exotic thing we are trying this year are two green tea trees. Assuming they grow well for us we will be making our own tea mixes this summer and into the fall.

Last year I had a lot of trouble with my tomato, pepper and tomatillo seed starts. I now think a lot of that was from over-watering. My problem here is that we have very low humidity, so the little plants dry out quickly. To keep the plants moist I had to water them frequently. I am fairly sure this led to root rot which led to stunted growth and unhealthy plants. To help combat that this year I ordered 7″ domes that go over the standard 10″ x 20″ trays in which I will start the seeds. I will be able to keep the little plants in a slightly more controlled and hopefully more humid area longer. I am hopeful that this will help keep humidity levels higher so I have to water them less frequently which will in turn result in healthier plants. This will be particularly important for the grafted tomatoes which need a period to heal and grow together with minimal environmental stress.

I am fairly sure our freeze last week killed the serrano and habanero peppers I transplanted from the garden. I decided now was a good time to start next summer’s plants. I realized the plants never got too big to transport and that in the right conditions they seem to keep producing peppers. I moved the ghost pepper inside since I only have the one and no seeds. It seems to be doing well and new leaves are coming out. I also started a tray of German chamomile. I have unsuccessfully tried starting chamomile in the past but I am hopeful this year, more so since a few little plants have started sprouting. If successful it will become part of our tea garden.

In the coming weeks more of the seeds and supplies will be arriving. I will be modifying the area where I start the seeds to accommodate an increased number. Let the fun begin.

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