In the garden timing is everything
One of the great benefits of gardening is that it puts the gardener in tune with the rhythms of nature.
The gardening calendar in Sedona and the Verde Valley allows for some flexibility due to our long growing season, however there are some important times to observe in order to get the most help from nature.
After our March rains most of us are observing a bumper crop of weeds due to the perfect timing of water, and mild to warm sunny days.
Weed and wildflower seeds are a perfect example of the importance of timing. They lay dormant until just the right time and they are not dependent on humans in order to propagate and flourish. Many hikers are noticing beautiful wild floral bouquets along the trails where a month ago there were none.
Amongst the wildflowers are annual grasses such as foxtails and oat grass whose seeds spread once they dry out and can be problems for the homeowner.
To prevent these grasses as well as other unwanted spring garden visitors (i.e. weeds) from growing in your garden year after year, timing is everything.
Hand pulling before they go to seed and dry out is the surest way of preventing weeds from coming back year after year.
There is an old saying, "One year's weed - seven years' seed." While your foxtails are green you can easily pull them out and dispose of them.
This is best done when the ground is still damp and before their seed head matures. If you have a large area of foxtails and choose to use a weed whacker you need to cut them to the ground when green before they seed or else you are just broadcasting more seeds for future years.
For the vegetable and flower garden most seed packets instruct the gardener when to plant the seeds in relationship to the last frost.
In our area the tried and true almanac of the last frost is the mesquite tree. When the first leaf buds appear on the mesquite you can be sure we will be frost-free until next winter.
A good benchmark for planting warm weather crops is Mother's Day. Even if we do not have frost, nighttime temperatures need to be consistently in the mid 50's before warm weather crops will be vigorous.
You can plant early to try to get a head start, but tomatoes, melons, squash, peppers and beans like a soil temperature of at least 60 degrees, so early planting often doesn't show optimal growth.
One can get a head start by planting seeds early in pots and keep them indoors or protected by a cold frame, greenhouse or hoop house, or buy young plants at a garden center.
Planting guides for our elevation are available on-line at the website for the U of A Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners Manual. Guides to soil temperature for seed germination are also available on-line.
Timing your planting is part of the art and science of gardening, and gardeners have several calendars that they can easily consult.
Some like to plant with the solar and lunar calendars, or even with the signs of the zodiac. If you refer to a "farmers almanac" you may find stories, history and a variety of garden lore along with many calendars.
Early Native American calendars were actually aligned to these planting cycles (we have one in our area at the V bar V Ranch petro-glyph wall near Beaver Creek), and traditional Native peoples still observe these auspicious dates with ceremonies associated with planting.
The best way to work with timing in the garden is to know the habits of the plants you want to grow. Just like children, plant development needs the best conditions for their readiness to grow and mature.
And just like children we want our plants to grow with the right companions, so while you are researching planting guides, search for a companion planting guide.
Gardens for Humanity has monthly workshops to help with gardening in our unique environment.
These are opportunities to meet other gardeners and share their passion and insight.
For more information about our workshops, and to learn more about our programs visit our website www.gardensforhumanity.org or email us at email@example.com.