Plan now for bountiful gardens, blue ribbons
A blue ribbon-winning tomato or dahlia was not just planted willy-nilly in a hole in the dirt and blessed by its gardener. It takes a lot of thought and quite a bit of effort on the part of the plant’s caretaker, said Master Gardener Lori Dekker.
Gardeners who regularly win awards at the Yavapai County Fair are in the planning and working stages for spring and summer gardens.
“It is definitely worth your time to peruse the Cooperative Extension’s informative pamphlet, ‘Ten Steps to a Successful Vegetable Garden,’ a scientific, no frills, guide that will get you off to a good start,” Dekker said.
Available at the Extension office at the Prescott Rodeo Grounds, or online at extension.arizona.edu, this document gives a step-by-step plan for site selection, plant layout, preparing and caring for the soil, mulch, pests, irrigation and planting dates.
Recent dips in temperatures and windy conditions may have affected local fruit trees, Dekker reports.
“If the weather only gets down to 32 degrees and the days stay warmish, above 59, and not too windy, they may be OK. Bees need 59 degree plus non-windy days to fly and pollinate,” she said.
Spring bulbs are blooming now. Gardeners start bulbs in October or November when the nighttime temperatures fall between 40 and 50 degrees. This allows the roots to form and the bulb to get the winter chill it needs to bloom.
Bulbs that bloom well and naturalize here in the mountains include daffodils, tulips, Dutch iris, crocus and alliums.
Dahlias are tubers, like potatoes, and can’t take the freezes Prescott gets. Gardeners need to plant them after tomatoes are set out when the soil temperatures are 60 degrees or more. They will bloom in about eight weeks.
If large, dinner plate dahlias are planted – and who wouldn’t want a few of those babies? – be sure they have wind protection, six to eight hours of sun a day, and stakes them. Set five or six stakes around each site when planting the tubers so the heavy buds will have support.
The tubers must be lifted and stored each winter if you want to replant the following year. The first frost will blacken the leaves to remind you to get sand, perlite, or packing peanuts and a loose airy box or paper bag ready to receive the tubers for a winters rest.
Yes, it’s true. No one should plant tomatoes in the garden until Mother’s Day. Unless, that is, they use HotCaps or plastic and hoop tunnels, and have a direct line to the Almighty from whom they can plead for mercy, Dekker said.
If one must plant tomatoes, start them now, under lights. In four to five weeks, they can be planted outside. Tomatoes need 50 degree soil to live long and prosper.
“We have a pretty short tomato harvest window because of the later summer heat,” she said.
Anyone can enter their produce or flowers in the Fair. It costs nothing. Plus, entrants get a free admission ticket.
One of the best parts of perusing the horticulture and floriculture exhibits is the chance encounters with other exhibitors. They offer a wealth of information about what works in their garden and what doesn’t.
Yavapai County Master Gardeners, specially trained in quad-city growing conditions, are eager to help beginning and experienced gardeners become successful.
Master Gardeners can be reached in Prescott at 928-445-6590, and in the Verde Valley at 928-554-8992. The Extension office is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., closed for lunch noon-1 p.m., call 928-445-6590.