Monthly Archives: April 2012

Timing of Potatoes

A lot of gardening is about timing. Plant at the right time, water at the right time, harvest at the right time.

In the low desert of Arizona, things become more complicated because we have at least two planting seasons. The cold season crops go in starting in mid- to late- October (I’ve learned to wait until the nasturtiums start to pop up, which means the soil is cool enough for cold season crops to germinate.) The warm season plants go in after the chance of the last frost, usually February.

There are always a few plants that I just don’t don’t have a good feel for, including green beans and potatoes.

This year we planted our potatoes in January.

The plants started going down this week, so we decided to dig. Looks like January was a perfect time to plant them.

Now we want to learn how to preserve some of the potatoes so that we can plant the same variety next year. Do you have any ideas?

The University of Arizona has a vegetable planting guide for different elevations of Arizona. Looks like I need to replace the potato plants with sweet potatoes at this time of year.

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Mother of Thousands in Flower

Have you ever seen a mother-of-thousands plant, or sometimes called alligator plant? In high school my Spanish teacher called hers a “sombrero plant” or Mexican hat plant.

Mother-of-thousands get their name from the fact they produce miniature young plants on the edges of their leaves. It is the type of plant that friends love to share, which is how we got ours. It is probably a Kalanchoe daigremontiana or a hybrid of that species.

Ours did something unexpected this year.

Yes, this is a mother-of-thousands flowering.

The beautiful tubular red flowers lasted for weeks.

We never saw any insects or birds visiting the flowers so we doubt we’ll see seeds from it. Apparently the plants are originally from South Africa or Madagascar, so perhaps we don’t have the correct pollinator here.

Do you know if mother-of-thousands will produce seeds?

Nasturtiums

Seems like certain flowers bring back childhood memories for me, and nasturtiums are an excellent example.

My maternal grandmother always had nasturtiums growing in beds around her house,

and inevitably a vase or two filled with these brilliant red-orange-yellow beauties on the kitchen table, the same kitchen table where we would nibble fresh-baked molasses cookies.

My grandmother called them “nasty-urtiums,” I think as a way to help us remember the name. Either that, or she was referring to their pungent odor. The common name nasturtium means “nose-twister” in Latin. (Technically these flowers now belong to the genus Tropaeolum).

In our garden, we have a tendency to nibble on the flower petals and savor their spiciness. We also check for the big wrinkly seeds, making sure we will have plenty of nasturtiums to enjoy next year.

What do you remember about nasturtiums?

Hollyhock

Do you recognize these pink flowers?

They are hollyhocks, Alcea sp.

Where I grew up back East, my grandmother had hollyhocks growing in front of one of the sheds. All I remember about them was that they were very tall and that she didn’t do much to care for them. They just always grew there.

When I got to Arizona, I was delighted to find that hollyhocks will grow here, too.

They are biennials, which means they produce a plant the first year and then flower the second. Some are also short-lived perennials.

Ours started from plants that were being dug up and discarded from a friend’s garden. You can also plant seeds.

Like the poppies form the last post, hollyhocks also readily reseed. It is always fun to guess where the plants are going to turn up next.

Have you ever made hollyhock dolls using the bud as a head and flower as a skirt?

There’s nothing more beautiful than the morning sun coming through a hollyhock flower.

Do you have any favorite memories of hollyhocks?

Popping Up All Over

Don’t you just love plants that reseed themselves right where you’d like them to grow?

Our poppies have been so obliging this year.

They have been popping up in all the right places!

Growing Apples (and Kids)

My son has been fascinating with grafting since he was little. Therefore, when someone told us about an apple tree grafting class for kids, I knew I didn’t even have to ask. We were going, regardless of the fact that he broke his arm a few days before.

The teacher was very knowledgeable and patient. We came home with puny stick wrapped in parafilm and plastic tape that was supposed to grow into an apple tree.

We held our breath.

No need to worry, though. The buds above the graft started popping out, right on schedule.

Isn’t that amazing? Two little sticks can become a baby tree.

You might be wondering if you can grow apples in Phoenix, Arizona. According to the teacher, as long as the tree is growing on special rootstock that was developed for Arizona (called EM 111 – isn’t that mysterious?) several common varieties will grow here, including Granny Smith.

The top part that will produce the fruit is called the scion. Our teacher supplied us with a scion from a variety called “Golden Dorset,” which he said would
self-pollinate if you have only one tree. He also said it was a good variety to
supply pollen for other varieties as well.

Now we just have to find the perfect place to plant it.

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What kinds of apples grow where you live?

French Breakfast Radishes

My friend Deb offered me a radish one day when we were strolling through her garden.

Oh, my, it was love at first bite. I asked her what kind they were. She told me the variety was “French Breakfast.”

French Breakfast are a mild radish with just enough bite to let you know, “I’m a radish!”

We planted for our second harvest in January, so these yummy snacks will soon be replaced by summer vegetables.

The radish seeds we planted in the fall are already in this stage.

I wonder what French Breakfast will like in the second generation.

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Do you have a favorite radish variety?