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Thu, Oct. 21

Gardens for Humanity: September begins the ‘second spring’ for local gardeners

(Richard Sidy/Courtesy)

(Richard Sidy/Courtesy)

September begins what local gardeners call our, “Second Spring.” Historically, March and August are our wettest months in Arizona. As the monsoon rains taper off, we experience a burst of new life in the garden with the extra bonus of flowers, fruits and vegetables that have matured during the warm (hot) summer months.

We see a second bloom of roses, and a glorious display of wild and domestic flowers. The colors of our second spring are many shades of golden yellow, violet, orange, and red, punctuated by white and the vibrant greens and blue-greens of new growth on many shrubs.

What is different in this second spring is that the seedlings and fruit trees that awoke in our first spring are now fully producing. In the garden are squashes, beans, tomatoes, pears, and apples ready for harvest, all of various shapes, colors, and sizes.

Even wild fruit and native foods are abundant. Prickly pears turning deep purple-red, tangy-sweet mesquite pods ripening and starting to drop, sumac berries red and sticky. In Oak Creek Canyon, we see the fruits of black walnuts starting to litter the ground, wild grapes, blackberries, and orphaned heritage apples amongst the ruins of pioneer orchards.

The months of September and October are not only harvest time for local gardeners; it is also a time of planning and planting the fall and winter garden. We have seen that the recent rains have awakened seeds that have been waiting for such a good watering. A wild gardener may see lettuces, endives, arugula, kale and the sprouts of forgotten seeds from last season growing salad in unexpected places.

They are the edible companions of the so-called “weeds” that are also coming to life (some, like purslane, delicious and nutritious).

Now is time to plant and prepare the soil for new winter crops. All the many leafy relatives in the cabbage (brassica) family, lettuces, root vegetables of all kinds, and bulbs, thrive through the winter months.

Many gardeners say, “In by Halloween, out by Mother’s Day.”

This is the timeline for growing garlic, and also the life cycle for many winter veggies that can’t take the hot days that begin in May. Cilantro, parsley, and many greens for salad can be planted in the early fall, as well as fava beans and some winter peas (which help build soil by fixing nitrogen).

One can also add the leaves of fava beans and winter peas to salads before they make pods, in addition to some winter flowers like borage and violets.

For more information, you can download a vegetable planting guide for our area towards the bottom of the Gardens for Humanity home page, gardensforhumanity.org.

In addition, the Verde Valley Seed Library offers many free seeds, and great information for fall and winter gardens. It is open on the fourth Saturday of each month until December. Check our website for the dates, times, and location.

Richard Sidy is president for the Gardens for Humanity. Founded in 1996, Gardens for Humanity has worked for ecological education to help give our children and all members of our community the values, tools and experiences needed to seek and regain balance with the natural world. Our many Programs and Projects throughout the years have helped to enrich our Verde Valley area from personal wellness to schools and communities. 

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