Living in the desert southwest certainly has its advantages, one of them being that you can grow vegetables all year long! October is gardening time, and if you have been putting off starting a home garden, why not get started?
October is the time to plant the following vegetables from seed:
And other root crops (except radishes)
Plant from “sets”:
Plant with seedlings:
Herbs to plant now from seeds or plants:
If you have a vegetable garden, and need to make room for fall crops, it may be hard to decide what to take out. Tomatoes, peppers and eggplant will continue to produce until the first frost, so don’t pull those unless they have no green fruit. Melons, cucumbers and summer squash are usually done by now, so you can remove these plants. Winter squash (pumpkins, butternut, acorn, and other hard shell squash) should be left on the vines until your thumb nail can’t pierce the flesh. If they are ready, pick and remove the vines.
When you first set out seedlings, provide them with some afternoon shade for a couple weeks to acclimate them. Don’t leave shade cloth over them for too long, however, or they will not thrive from lack of sun.
If cabbage lopers (small, green caterpillars) bother your cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower plants, treat with Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), a safe, bio-insecticide that controls these pests.
Shade cloth is essential for summer gardens, but only needed in the fall garden when you first set out seedlings. It is also helpful to lay on the ground to sprout seeds and prevent birds from plucking them out of the ground when they first germinate. Do not leave on, however, because shorter days mean less sun, and you need at least 6 hours of sun to grow good vegetable crops.
Mulching is essential in all gardens. Old straw works great, and is better than new straw because it is already partially decomposed. Mulching keeps soil cooler and reduces evaporation. It also prevents weeds from sprouting. A good thick layer of mulch, or compost if you have lots, is always a good idea in desert gardens.
Watch out for insect pests. The cabbage loper quickly eats the leaves of all plants in the brassica family, including cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower. Bt, Bacillus thuringiensis, is available in home garden centers, hardware stores, and online. Look for this bacteria as the active ingredient. It works by shutting down the digestive system of caterpillars.
ground squirrel hole
Ground squirrels will be the worst enemy of your garden if you live in a rural area, or close to open desert. They dig under and climb over fences and walls. Packrats can also be a problem, but they most likely will go after your unprotected cars than your garden. A ground squirrel hole has no cactus around it; packrat dens are covered with cactus and debris. Rip them open, and then will leave.
Also be prepared to continue the vigilance of keeping critters out of your garden. If this is a first garden for you, a fence or wall is absolutely necessary. Critters will try to climb over, dig under, or jump down from adjacent trees to get at your produce. A good, non-climbable fence is essential to keep out ground squirrels.