Living Southwest of Eden – 5 Things to do in Your Desert Garden in January

While the rest of the country is buried under snow, we gardeners who dwell under the Sonoran sun are digging in to prepare soil, sow seeds and plant our spring and summer gardens. Rejoice a new gardening season is about to begin!

1.     Prepare your soil.  Remove any spent plants, weeds or debris. Add organic matter and amendments, rake smooth, water in and wait at least a week to plant.

·      Add at least 2-3" of organic matter to your soil, dead or decomposing remains of living things.           Examples include:  compost, dried leaves, or dried aged manures

·       Organic matter is crucial to provide food for the plants and microorganism living in the soil

·       Organic matter is a major source of nitrogen providing over a dozen essential nutrients to the plant

·       Add gypsum if you are planting into heavy clay garden soil

·       Add a source of phosphorous, potassium and trace minerals (see why below)

·       After all is mixed into the soil, rake smooth then water in and wait at least a week before planting   

In addition to compost, it is also important to add an organic source of phosphorus, potassium and trace minerals. 

·       Plants use phosphorous to flower, fruit and set seed

·       Potassium makes plants hardy, vigorous and disease resistant

·       Trace minerals are like giving your plant a multi vitamin

·       Calcium in the form of gypsum helps build study wall cells (don’t add lime)

·       Add all of these to the root zone of the plants, about 6-8” from their stems

 Recommended organic sources of phosphorus:

·       Bat Guano, Steamed Bone Meal, Seabird Guano, Soft Rock Phosphate

Recommended organic sources of potassium

·       Kelp Meal, Green Sand, Seaweed Extracts

Recommended organic sources of trace minerals

·       Earthworm castings, Azomite, Glacial Rock Dust, Kelp Meal

 2.     Plot out your space and decide what you want to plant and where.  I have a notebook that I draw up the plot plans in. This way I have a history to refer to.  I also go back to this plot plan at the end of the season to write down how much I harvested, what succeeded and failed. 

 3.     Let your mind run wild and start browsing seed catalogues, websites and garden shops. This is where I go bonkers and have to hold back as my little garden by the lake can only pack in so much!  Some of my fav seed companies are Native Seed Search, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Floret, and Seeds of Change.  Favorite spots to buy transplants are The Farm at South Mountain, Dig It Gardens, Arcadia Color Garden Nursery, Southwest Gardener, Farmyard, Vilardi Gardens (sold at Farmers’ Markets and Summer Winds) and plant sales at The Desert Botanical Garden and Boyce Thompson Southwestern Arboretum.

4.     Plant:  bare root roses and fruit trees, asparagus, arugula, beets, bok choy, cabbage, carrots, chives, cilantro, collards, desert marigold, dill, garlic, globe mallow, hyacinth, lettuce, mint, mustard greens, onions, penstamons, poppy, potatoes, radishes, spinach, strawberries, swiss chard, thyme, tulips.

Sow: Basil, eggplant, melon, pepper and tomatoes indoors or in a greenhouse. 

5.     Now is the time to check your irrigation system to repair, replace heads, add more drip lines.

Lauren Brooks Life Tips: This is our only true month of “winter” so watch they weather and pay attention for sudden swings or change in temperature.