Any time is a good time to grow your own vegetables, but now – as the Autumn equinox fast approaches – it is a GREAT time to get ready to plant a fall garden. Growing vegetables is fun, and as easy as one – two – three.
Rule One. Grow what you like.
Most Americans eat only one single serving of vegetables per day. This is despite the fact that most of the teeth in the human mouth, plus the longest stretch of the human digestive system are designed to deal with vegetative matter. Here’s the good news – home-grown vegetables taste far better than store bought, so you may discover that vegetables taste better than you think.
To make greens taste even better, spruce them up with some tasty dressing. I like the two greens dressings I wrote about on SavortheSW.com – here.
Rule Two. K.I.S.S.
Keep It Simple Silly! Start small. You were undoubtedly envisioning a huge bed with rows of carrots and cabbages. You could do that, but why bother? Get some big plant pots, put them where they will get at least six hours of direct sunlight each day, then fill them with potting soil. The potting soil is the most expensive part of the operation, but good soil grows good plants.
Pots of vegetables are easy to weed, easy to harvest from, and can look decorative on the patio. If you live in a home with a smaller yard, container gardening is one way to have at least a few vegetables. Keep reading for a discussion of selecting containers.
Rule Three. Care.
Keep the tiny little babies moist while they get established. Seeds and seedlings may need twice a day moisture as they first start out, especially if we have a hot autumn. Once vegetables have three sets of leaves, their roots should be deep enough into the soil to only need water once a day.
One, two, three. It really is that simple. Now here are some additional details in case you are the detail oriented type.
Now is the time for a fall vegetable garden. The fall garden includes things that can stand frost (due in parts of Southern Arizona after October 15), or will be ready for harvest before that date. Thus, if you like tomatoes, get seedlings from the nursery and grow them now. You should have a fine fall crop of tomatoes. (For tomatoes from seed, start indoors next February.) Other plants that may not survive the frost but you still have time to grow include peppers, bush beans, winter squash and zucchini.
Fall vegetables that survive frost include mostly leafy and root crop vegetables. Artichokes, arugula (also called roquette, Italian lettuce), beets, bok choy (Chinese cabbage), broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chives, collard greens, endive, garlic, horseradish, jicima, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce (head and leaf types), mesclun mix, mizuma, mustard greens, onion (seed ok too), pak choy (another kind of Chinese cabbage), parsnip, potato, radish, raduccio, scallion (green onions), shallots, spinach, Swiss chard, and turnip.
Last, but not least, is a plant that will need more room than a single pot – peas. Unless you have many large pots, they will need to go into the ground. Everything else can be started now, but mid-September is the time to plant peas.
Pot size and depth depends on what you plant in it. Rule of thumb, the pot should be as deep as the plant will be tall. Tomatoes and peppers do best in pots two and a half feet deep, or greater. Likewise for squash and other pumpkin family members. Shallow pots, around a foot and a half deep are fine for most leafy vegetables, like lettuce, spinach, and chard. Go two feet for broccoli, beans and Brussels sprouts.
Carrots do better in deep pot unless you plant the smaller sized ones. Thumbelina type carrots can be grown in six inch deep pots, making them a great kid project. Warning! Tiny pots dry out very quickly. You need to water smaller pots more often or the kid project will turn into a discussion about death. Incidentally, carrots like a soil with extra sand in it for best performance and root formation.
Grow what you like. Keep it small and simple. Make sure you water as needed. As easy as 1-2-3. Happy veggie gardening!
Jacqueline has been gardening in the Southwest since childhood. Dr. Soule has been writing articles and books about how to garden successfully in our area for over several decades.
Sign up for the online email newsletter – “Gardening With Soule in the Land of El Sol.” You will be notified when when the latest article is posted. Usually it is once a week, but there are bonus features, like “You Can Grow That” the 4th of each month.
If you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my lectures. Look for me at your local Pima County Library branch, Steam Pump Ranch, Tubac Presidio, Tucson Festival of Books and other venues. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including the latest, “Southwest Fruit and Vegetable Gardening,” written for Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press, $23).
Note – this is an Amazon link – if you click on it and buy my book I get a few pennies.
© All articles are copyright by Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. You may not republish an entire blog post or article is prohibited without express written permission. I receive many requests to reprint my work. You may use a short excerpt but you must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Photos may not be used.