Gardening in the high country of the Anza Valley can be challenging. The elevation, unpredictable late spring storms and frost in June can ruin a well-planned home vegetable garden beyond repair.
Many residents have figured how to outsmart Mother Nature and enjoy a successful harvest year after year, but it takes dedication.
Bud Elmore, who designs and tends a vineyard with additional vegetable plots and fruit trees, said, “Better not have a full-time-away-from-your-garden job, it’s a lot of work.”
From tilling and amending the soil, to selecting what to plant, to fertilizing as the seedlings grow all involve planning.
Protecting the crops from pests and predators is also paramount. Gophers, rabbits, mice, rats and squirrels attack new plants with great enthusiasm. Sometimes predation comes from mysterious sources, however.
“I grew zucchini, green peppers and tomatoes because I like to make ratatouille,” Jan Scott said. “One day I noticed there was a bite out of one of my zucchinis. I wondered what that was. The next day out in the garden I saw another bite taken out of that same zucchini. Well, whatever it was it wasn’t biting the rest of the zucchinis. The bites continued out of the same zucchini for a couple days, until I saw Jett, my big, black dog eat it. She was the culprit. While we were out in the garden, she would go over and just take a bite. Silly girl.”
Fencing and root baskets can cure many creatures from munching out on the vegetables. Traps such as the Squirrelinator are effective. Promoting pest predators such as owls is also practiced with the use of owl nesting boxes to encourage them to hunt near the garden area.
Justin Carter is just getting started in large scale gardening.
“This is my first year with a big garden, but I’ve done tons of window herbs and small to medium pot veggies and I’ve done lots of sunflowers. I’m great at making starters out of things from the produce section at the grocery store,” he said.
Vegetables such as potatoes, celery and many herbs can rejuvenate from parts of their stems or tubers.
For example, basil is one of the most popular fresh herbs offered at the market. If the stems get to looking worn-out, placing them in water for a few weeks will save them and roots will have formed, making them ready to transplant into the garden.
Some people make gardening look easy. Linda Bush said that strawberries really don’t go away through the winter in her garden.
“We keep them mulched and watered, and in the spring, they send out new growth. Easy care,” Bush said.
Mountain lore suggests that garderners not to plant frost-susceptible vegetables until after Mother’s Day, the second Sunday in May. That advice usually proves to be useful, but there have been exceptions. Cold tolerant varieties such as broccoli and cauliflower thrive in colder temperatures.
Some of the most popular vegetables and fruits that are grown by Valley gardeners are tomatoes, potatoes, peppers of all kinds, apples, pears, raspberries, blackberries, lettuce, pumpkins, squash, zucchini and beans.
Diane Sieker can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.