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September 25, 2001
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DESERT BLOOM: Winter Garden

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Angela O'Callaghan

Now that the days have started to get a little shorter, and it's begun to cool down a bit, maybe this is the time to think about planting a vegetable garden with cool season crops. With autumn coming in, I'm afraid that we need to let go of the hope for our own tomatoes and think about other delicious stuff we can grow for the salad or the stir-fry. One of the many exciting things about living in Las Vegas is that there is not just one growing season, but at least two, and some people would even say there are five!

A large number of vegetables cannot tolerate the amazingly high temperatures that mark summer in Las Vegas, but they will grow quite well when they are planted in the early fall, up to the beginning of October and some even later.

Asparagus, for instance. This is a perennial plant that will survive in salty soil, and you can plant it from September through April!

Members of the cabbage family are happy to be planted from August until the beginning of October. This is a very big group of related plants. There are lots of vegetables to choose from here, since it includes broccoli, bak choi, cauliflower, kohlrabi, and turnip in addition to the many different kinds of cabbage that you can find. Cabbage family members will generally grow normally until temperatures fall below 40° F (that's 5° C ).

Popeye's favorite, spinach, is another crop that flourishes when the days and nights are cooler. You can plant it successfully throughout October, and it will grow until temperatures become pretty cool.

Garlic cloves should be planted around mid October, and the bulbs will be ready to harvest the following summer.

You can plant onion seed until early October. The same holds true for carrots, beets, and Swiss chard.

Now, doesn't that all sound good? If you already have a garden plot where you grew tomatoes or melons, or any of the warm season crops, then you are well ahead of the game. Turn over the vines that are dying back and add some fresh compost. As long as no serious insect or disease problem has been introduced into your garden, then you should be able to use that plot right away.

But maybe you haven't thought that gardening in this area was reasonable until now. Well, what better time to start than the present? Think about where you would like to place a plot it will need at least six hours of direct sun every day, and it must be accessible to water. If your soil is like most of the soil in Southern Nevada, you probably want to do something containerized. You can build a raised bed with cinder blocks and fill it with a combination of native soil and soil mix from one of the local nurseries. Add some nutritious compost to that combination, and you should be good to go.

But you might want to start with something smaller. In that case, why not use pots? Herbs like basil and oregano succeed very well in pots. Leafy greens too. As long as the big four requirements are met, then the plants should produce for you.

Those big four are:

First, vegetables need fertile soil and occasional additional fertilizer, so the soil must have a decent nutritional level and a neutral or slightly acid pH;

Second, the soil is kept evenly moist;

Third, the pots are big enough for the crop and

Fourth, the plants get enough sun.

In pots, your plants won't be as big as if they were in an actual garden, but this might be a little less overwhelming to start with.

So lets get growing! Whether you choose to plant tarragon or turnips, you can have a productive garden in a small area or a large one.

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