Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Ambrosia cantaloupes

I have never grown better looking cantaloupe plants than I have this year in Toquerville. Dark, healthy, growthy plants with large developing cantaloupes. If you have never grown Ambrosia cantaloupes, I can't recommend them more highly. They are simply the best variety you will ever grow (I grow no other variety). You will never get these in the grocery story because they don't have a long shelf life (the primary consideration for grocery store produce), but if you ever eat one of those tasty, tender, juicy, flavor filled melons, you will never grow another Hale's Best, Heart of Gold, or any other variety. I planted in May, but with the cool spring they didn't really take off until early July. I tilled in compost from the Washington County Fairgrounds in November, and added monoamonium phosphate (water soluble) after plants were up and well established.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Mid summer garden

After a slow start, a cold and windy spring, my summer garden has taken off. The corn is doing great, ate our first serving tonight, my Ambrosia Cantaloupe is growing and looking very impressive, my summer squash, zucchini, crookneck, butternut (actually a winter squash) are all looking great and producing excellent produce.

I have begun harvesting one of my best onion crops ever (sweet spanish), and my tomatoes are still looking well and producing better than earlier this summer. My fall corn crop is about a foot tall, and my green beans are just sprouting. In the past, my mid summer garden was an ugly thing with the heat stressing most plants out of production and into the ugly stage. But in Toquerville, my mid-summer garden is very exciting and bounteous. It's fun to garden in the summer again.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Summer plantings

I have found, in Toquerville, that I can successfully plant, during the summer months, many garden items I could not successfully plant in climates a bit warmer in the summer. Such things as cucumbers, beets, melons and squash. In warmer climates these have to be planted in the spring before the summer heat stresses them out of production. And in colder climates they must be planted in early spring just to be able to mature before cool weather arrives in the fall. But the summers are mild enough in Toquerville that most plants don't stress as they do in St George or southern Nevada. Plus the growing season is long enough that the plants can mature and produce before cold weather arrives.

I believe the key to this is the fact Toquerville is protected from the morning sun until at least 8 a.m. during the summer, and the fact that the daily high temperature is almost always reached by 2 pm and immediately begins to cool from that hour. The Toquerville high, on average, is 3 degrees cooler than St George, but that high is maintained for a far shorter period of time than St George. Also, I have observed that shortly after sundown, Toquerville will be from 10 to 15 degrees cooler than St George--even though both cities may sometimes reach the same night time low, Toquerville will reach that low much earlier in the evening than does St George.

This weather pattern means that plants, which begin to stress at temperatures above 100 degrees, will be stressed for only a relatively short period of time in Toquerville, but for a much longer period of the day in St George and other southern, desert areas.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Soil preparation

Toquerville soil contains clay and sand but is excellent soil if composted material is added. My experience is that fall leaves tilled in with plentiful horse manure in the fall, makes a wonderful composted soil in the spring. In the warmer climates, this compost can be tilled three or four times during the winter and be ready for spring planting. In colder climates, the leaves and manure can be tilled in late fall and again in early spring, and are then ready for planting.

In Washington County, the fair grounds offers composted horse manure and sawdust for ten dollars a pickup load. This is excellent material and can be tilled in the soil at anytime.

I have also successfully used straw and steer manure, although it takes a little longer to break down.


I live in Toquerville, Utah. Toquerville has severe winter and spring winds that challenge the gardeners here. However, providing some protection from those early north winds will get your young tender garden through to better weather. Both here and in other desert (windy) areas, I have successfully used as wind breaks; 1. block walls, 2. pomegranate trees, and 3. Holly Oak trees.

In Toquerville, the only real wind problem, relative to gardening, is the early spring, north winds. Southerly winds during the spring and summer are light and inconsequential. Recorded top wind speeds from southerly or westerly flows are much higher in St George than in Toquerville, while recorded top wind speeds from northerly or easterly flows are much higher in Toquerville than in St George. So the period of concern for Toquerville gardeners is that period in the spring when northerly winds are still present. Many gardeners, therefore, postpone planting until the northerly winds have stopped or diminished. But with some protection from the northerly winds will allow gardeners to plan earlier in the spring, since ground temperatures allow for it.

Favorite varieties

I have experimented with various varieties of produce and have found the following to be unmatched in quality and performance:
1. Tomatoes: Celebrity or Floramerica (both are low juice, high meat, slicing tomatoes with a mild flavor; and neither are bothered by most diseases)
2. Cantaloupe: Ambrosia (the only variety I will plant; it's flavor and tender meat is unequaled by anything on the market)
3. Corn: Golden Jubilee (I continue to experiment and try other varieties, but this old time variety simply performs, stays sweet on the stalk, and has great flavor, and usually produces two ears per stalk)
4. Onions: Sweet Spanish (I just keep coming back to this onion, it is a great green onion, can be eaten at any stage, grows well in the desert, and stores all winter)

I grow all of our onions, we never buy onions from the store. The Sweet Spanish can be picked at any stage and eaten as a green onion, or picked mid season for a smaller slicing onion, or harvested and stored in mid to late summer and stored for winter use. The sweet (Texas sweet and Walla Walla sweet) onions are wonderful to eat but do not store well, and will not last through the winter.