Choosing Perfect Varieties/Postponed Opening

Over the past several months I’ve had many a call and email asking me for advice about how to grow a garden, plant trees and raise poultry.  Here are a few tips I follow when planting in the Arizona climate.  Keep in mind I farm in the desert and my climate is very different than those that live amongst cinder block and roof tops, nevertheless these are great suggestions for all to follow.

The fall weather is great for planting young trees.  When I plant fruit trees I make sure the trunk junction or graph is always facing the east.  The graph is where the root stock and new stem have been joined together.  You can see a small circle towards the bottom of the trunk where the two different pieces of wood have grown into one bump and there is a visible hollowed spot.  That spot must face the east.  The graph is the most tender area on the trunk of the tree and a west facing graph tends to get damaged from the afternoon sun and may cause the tree to die from over exposure.

When planting stone crops like peaches, nectarines and plum trees find varieties that have low chill hours.  Chill hours are accumulated hours required for dormancy so it will produce fruit the following season. Temperatures must be below 45 degrees from November to February. Most large home improvement stores and other box stores sell varieties of trees that are not good for the lower Sonoran desert.  The trees I plant have low chill hours; 250 to 350.  I would not buy trees with higher chill hours, especially for those of you that live in a city environment.

Planting a garden is fun, educational and very rewarding especially when the first tomato is picked fresh from the vine.  Here are a few things I do each season.  Prior to planting I draw crop plans. Being an all natural farm, I cannot use any type of chemical so all plants must be compatible sharing the same space. It’s important all plants sharing the same space have the same water and fertilizer needs.  You should not plant a tomato plant next to lettuce.  Lettuce requires a lot of water and tomatoes only need water once every 10 days to two weeks. When crop planning, make sure to leave space for flowers.  Incorporating flowers into the garden will attract beneficial insects.  Come out to my farm for a tour and see some examples of how it’s planted.

Fertilizer requirements are extremely important.  Tomatoes do not need as much nitrogen as does lettuce.  Too much nitrogen on tomatoes will grow many leaves and not very much fruit.  Lettuce and all leafy greens need more nitrogen……….when fertilizing pay close attention to the ambient temperatures.  Most all fertilizers have an applicable temperature limit.  I never fertilize anything above 85 degrees unless I flood irrigate and then I reduce the application rate by half.

Fertilizing with a foliar spray is good but there is a time and temperature limit to follow.  In the winter months I don’t begin fertilizing until around 10 a.m. and finish around noon.  If there is a frost or heavy freeze don’t fertilize.  You can do more damage than good.  Freezing air, water and fertilizer can kill or create die back on plant growth.  Completing watering and fertilizing by noon is a good rule of thumb, it allows plenty of time for the moisture to evaporate which means less fungus, virus and bacterial outbreaks.

I was scouting out the veggies at Lowe’s the other day and I noticed they were selling onion plants.  Again, the box stores are selling varieties that are not good for our area.  Arizona, the metro area is around 33 degrees latitude.  What does this mean to onion growers?  It means when you are choosing onion varieties, make sure to purchase short day varieties. These are varieties that require fewer daylight hours.  One or two intermediate day varieties can grow here but will produce smaller bulb sizes.  Onions are very daylight sensitive.  We live in a southern state and Walla Walla Onions which are very well known to the state of Washington don’t do well in Arizona.  Walla’s need longer daylight hours thus are called a long day variety.

Raising poultry for eggs is fun and very entertaining.  I’ve tried several different breeds and I’ve come to the conclusion there are only a few breeds that do well in the desert.  California Leghorns are top on my list.  They are white in color and smaller in size.  They lay large white eggs.  Their white feathers do a great job reflecting the sun.  The seasonal overall mortality rate is less than any other specie I’ve raised on the farm.  Barred Rocks are another tough breed for the desert.  Their black and white feathers are beautiful,  their vibrant red combs and wattles are very attractive.  Their egg production is above average but not as good as the leggy’s.  The last breed I raise are Rhode Island Reds and that is if I cannot get leggy’s or rocks.  The Rhode’s don’t handle the heat as well as the others but are by far better than many of the other breeds. I’ve tried raising all black feathered chickens of several breeds and they have a higher mortality rate.  Brown Leghorns, Delawares, Buffs and several other breeds just don’t quite handle the wide temperature ranges as do the rocks and leggy’s.  Also, try using some organic vinegar in their water.  I use Bragg’s, it helps take out some of the sourness city water has and helps stabilize the salty water our area is known for.  One or two cap fulls a day in fresh water is all that is needed.

One more thing……..please do not use any type of insecticide, herbicide or chemical fertilizer on your property.  Just get accustomed to bugs.  All gardens need bad bugs and beneficials.  If you don’t have bad bugs, then the good ones don’t have anything to eat.  If you spray for bad bugs, it kills good bugs too.  I’m down on my knees begging you don’t use any chemicals.  It’s killing everything.  And if you are raising poultry and they free range your area and they eat an infected bug that was sprayed it may die or become very ill.  And if you eat those eggs from an infected hen then you may have health problems.  It’s really hard to differentiate an egg from an egg, you know what I mean?

I feed my flock a certified organic feed because if it’s not organic then you are feeding your flock a load of gmo’s and then you eat the eggs that contain genetically modified crap.  Purina, Nutrena and many other brands use gmo’s in their feed.  By the way, I sell organic chicken feed.

If you want help plot planning, let me know.  Call or email me for a quote to come to your place and help you map out your garden plan. Email address is  or phone 623 386 6003.

A side note:  The farm stand in Tonopah will not be open the first weekend of November nor will I be attending any markets.  Too many crop failures have set the farm back a few weeks.  I will give a weekly update, usually the updates come out on Monday or Tuesday of each week.  The whole farm has been planted again but it will take several weeks before anything is of a harvest-able size.  I do have turkey and chicken eggs for sale at the farm.  I will be at the farm on Saturday so if you want eggs just drive up to the gate and honk your horn, me or someone will be able to help you.  All eggs are $5.00/dozen.

If you have contacted me about a CSA share, all money must be in by this weekend.  Thanksgiving turkeys are available but I only have a few large meaty birds left and they look fantastic.  25lbs. and larger is all that is left.