Winter Planning for Spring Planting

Fishtail Weeder and Common Mallow

The days are short, nights long and the ground is cold. Winter isn't a great time for planting, but it is a time for planning a garden. Last fall we planted everything from an apple tree to iris bulbs, but there is still much to be decided for spring planting. While the snow flies we are thinking ahead to the gardening season.

2009 may be a good year to focus extra effort on the home garden. With a drought looming California's Central Valley farmers have cut back significantly on their vegetable planting. Affected crops include lettuce, tomatoes, melons, grapes and almonds. We can't grow almonds, but tomatoes and lettuce won't be too hard.

Since the average Last Frost Date in Santa Fe is May 15th we still have some time to plan. But there are plenty of choices to make between varieties of tomatoes, chiles, greens, and other herbs and veggies. I prefer the hardy heirloom vegetable varieties, but I'm still learning what grows best here in the high desert / mountain foothills. Fortunately local plant nurseries, the County Extension office and Santa Fe Botanical Garden have gardening classes scheduled through the spring.

Despite the cold we continue to add to the compost bin through the winter. Yesterday, I even added some weeds (Common Mallow) to the bin that were getting a head start on the growing season. Common Mallow has a deep tap root and requires carefull pulling with a dandelion / fishtail weeder or similar. By early spring I'll turn the compost and hopefully sift out a wheelbarrow load or two for the garden.

More Info:

Calif. farmers curb planting to cope with drought

NOAA - Freeze/Frost Maps

USDA - Cooperative Extension System Offices

Santa Fe Botanical Garden Events

New Mexico Annual Fruit Growers Workshop; Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2009

2009 Water Conservation & Xeriscape Conference and Expo, February 26 - March 1

NRCS - PLANTS Profile: Malva neglecta

High Desert Composting