Thursday, July 12, 2012

Summer extreme-heat gardening: use irrigation rows

Most desert gardeners have given up by now, believing it just too hot for any garden plants to survive the extreme 110 degree desert heart.

But for those of you fellow nutcases out there who want to persist in gardening in 110 degree heat, the Arizona Victory Gardener is here with a helping hand. 

The secret: high density planting in irrigation rows. 

--The "high density" part means planting so close that there is solid shade on the ground from the growth of the plants. 
--The "irrigation row " part means an row 1-2 feet wide (however long you want it), that you flood with water, once a day. 

Using this method, you can keep your garden plants going ALL SUMMER long, with the absolute minimum water bill.     In the picture above, I have an irrigation ditch with young sunflowers and cucumbers coming up.   Yes, the flooding covers them up with water for a while, but they don't seem to mind.

The whole key is keeping the root zone as moist and cool as possible.  The dense planting keeps shade on the ground.    I recommend flooding your row in the evening, to minimize the water lost to evaporation.  Build the berms around your flood zone 3-4 inches high, so you can fill it up with water real deep.   One watering per day will be necessary once the temps get above 100. 

You can even keep some "cold weather" crops going through the desert summer, if their roots are kept real wet and they are "under-planted" under somthing that gives them reasonable shade. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Arizona corn: native or hybrid? Plus: spring tomatos

The corn came in really well this season. I will admit, I have had
some bad luck with corn pollination in the past.

The biggest factor in my success: seed saving a native (non-hybrid)
variety. For the last three growing seasons, I have saved the
biggest and earliest corn cob for seed corn, and planted it the
following season. The results are very steady and dependable.

The hybrid stuff just never seems to work that well for me here. It
shoots up, looking great, getting me all excited, cobbing and
tasseling, and then.... zilch! No kernaling! Very frustrating
watching corn grow for 100 days then getting no kernals.

Now, the downside of the native variety is... You just can't compete
with the hybrid sweet corn on taste. If you want some good finger
licking, fresh boiled, put it on the plate and eat it summer corn, the
hybrid sweet corn is the best, hands down.

The native corn is heavier, less sweet, more dense, less flavorful.
In short, it is perfect for what people traditionally did with corn:
make meal out of it. Or, using it as animal feed. I can tell you,
the chickens love the corn. I throw it to them, and they just strip
it, real fast.

I haven't totally given up on the native corn as table corn, though.
Next season, I plan to pick it a little earlier, a little younger.
This year, it was a bit on the dry side. Hopefully, when it is
younger, it will have a better flavor.

Considering Tomatos

I am also up to my eyeballs in tomatos this spring. We are making
tons of home grown salsa, flavoring the tomatos with some garden-grown
onions (along with a packet of salsa flavoring!). I sprouted a
packet of tomatos back in January, and just planted all of them I

The cherry tomatos are particularly prolific, the beefstake ones less
so. I find the beefstake fruits are a bit on the fragile side. They
grow and burst too easy. The cherry ones seem to be less prone to
bursting. Plus, lots of good flesh for the salsa, less "watery
middle" stuff.