Saturday, September 29, 2012

Location, Location, Location

Emboldened by the anonymous comments of a couple of readers, I've decided to inudate the site with even more rambling information about fall gardening in Arizona. (Emboldened, inudate: How's that for some 25 cent words?) Today's ramblings: How to pick where to plant your vegis.

As best as I can tell (remember, I'm still new to this too!), there are three things you need to worry about when figuring out where to plant your vegis:
  1. What was planted in that spot before? From what I've read, if you plant the same plant (or the plants from the same family) in the same spot too many years in a row, you increase the chance of disease. (Since I'm pretty new to all of this, I don't have to worry about that too much.) There's also the issue of putting a "heavy feeder" (something that saps the nutrients from the soil) in the same spot where another heavy feeder was just planted. For instance, I'm told that planting an artichoke in the same spot where you just pulled out some corn is a big no-no, because there just won't be enough nutrients left in the soil for the artichoke. (I have to wonder if adding a bunch of compost or something to the soil will help you get around this particular requirement.)
  2. How much sun does the spot get? Can you believe it? We actually have to worry about getting enough sun in Arizona? Surprises me too, but it's really something you have to worry about--particularly in the non-summer months. For instance, I planted some peas against the west wall of my house recently, and they were a total bust. They slowly turned from green, to yellow, to white--probably because they were getting too much afternoon shade from the house. I still think that spot is a keeper for the summer months when you have to worry about your vegis getting prematurely cooked in the heat, but for the fall, I think I'll let that spot rest.
  3. What plants are going to be planted around it? This is the most complicated part. For those who want to do more reading, google "companion planting" for your plant of choice. Basically, some plants make good neighbors. Beans and corn are a classic example of this. The beans add nitrogen to the soil, and the corn takes the nitrogen from the soil. The beans need something to grow up, and the corn makes a perfect support. It's a great symbotic relationship. (There I go with the 25 cent words again.) On the flip side, there are other plants that absolutely should not be planted together, either because they compete for the same nutrients, or because they adversely affect each other's flavors, or because one plant attracts pests that are problematic to the other. Lucky for me, most of the plants I wanted to put in this fall seem to work well together, but I did have to separate the peas and garlic in my plans because apparently they don't play nice together.
When it comes to companion planting, I find that I have to make myself a spreadsheet to keep track of it all. Here's the one I cooked up when I was doing my fall planning this year. I'm not sure that the list of dos and don'ts are complete, because I really only wrote down the plants I was interested in planting this year, but hopefully it will at least be a good start for some of you.

So there you go. That's pretty much everything I can think of when it comes to picking a location for your vegis. Happy planting!

P.S. Thank you to the anonymous readers who have sent me emails about the site and encouraged me to post more. It really and truly makes my day to get your comments.

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