sunORGANIC GARDENING FOR THE SOUTHWEST
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GO ORGANIC!ARTICLE  7- GROWING OTHER VEGETABLES

BROCCOLI, CAULFLOWER AND CABBAGE

Starting these cruciferous vegetables from seed does work, but can be a bit challenging to start indoors in mid summer as there is usually not enough sun coming in a window to get them off to a good start and have them not too leggy.  I have had some success, but finally resorted to planting seeds in August, and keeping them shady until established.  Transplants work well too, but don’t set them out until September.  Provide shade so they can become acclimated as the sun is still pretty brutal.

Cabbage lopers are the main troublesome pest, so you will need to spray them with Bacillus thuringeniensis (Bt) (see Article 8; Biological Insect Controls) or hand pick.  They can decimate the leaves very quickly, so start spraying long before you see any signs of chewed leaves.  Fortunately, it is relatively easy to grow these organically as there are few other pests. You can also keep the plants covered with lightweight floating row covers which will keep the cabbage loper moth away and eliminate the need to spray. This can be used in cooler weather as it also keeps the plants warmer at night. Just don't use covers if it is above 90 degrees. 

Harvest broccoli when the head is full and you just start to see a few yellow flowers.  This means it is as large as it will get.  Don’t let them go past that point, however, as they become bitter and tough.  Also, don’t pull the plant when you have harvested the main stalk, as they will continue to produce side shoots for months.

Harvest cauliflower before the head starts to open up.  You can tie the leaves over the head to keep it whiter, if desired.  Once harvested, the plant will not form another head, so you can remove the entire plant.

Cabbage should be picked while still compact and the leaves are tight.  Keep an eye out for cabbage lopers as they will work inside the leaves and eat the plant from the inside out.  Again once you harvest the head it will not produce another so you can remove the plant.

All of these need to be protected from really hard frosts.  Covering them with heavy duty floating row covers will allow them to grow but keep them from freezing.  Remove the row covers if it starts to get too warm.  These plants prefer cooler weather.

CORN

Growing corn in the desert southwest is quite tricky and requires a ton of attention.  Plant in full sun after all danger of frost has passed, and in several rows.  Corn needs to cross-pollinate so a group of plants is much better than one long row.  Unless you are willing to hand pollinate (shaking the tassles over the silks), you will probably struggle getting ears to fill out.  Corn ear worms will drill holes in the tops and through the bottom, so you to control these pests organically you need to put mineral oil on the silk end weekly and use Bacillus thuringeniensis for the exterior invasion.  It also takes a lot more water than most crops.  However, if you are successful, you will have the best tasting corn, ever!

CUCUMBERS

The Armenian cucumber seems to do the best in the desert southwest. Other varieties do not produce consistant crops, and can be bitter. Cucumber beetles can be a problem (and they don't just attack cucumbers), and are difficult to control organically.  See Article 8, Biological Insect Controls.

MELONS

Melons like rich soil, so compost is a must.  They do very well in the desert southwest  There are very few pests that seem to bother them so they are easy to grow organically.  Squash vine borers will attack them, but only in a severe infestation.

SUMMER SQUASH

Summer squash (like zucchini, scalloped (also known as patty pan) and crookneck squash do extremely well in the desert southwest and growing organically is easy.  The biggest pest is the squash vine borer.  The telltale sign are holes drilled into the stems near the ground.  You will see frass (what the borers leave behind) piled at the entrance hole.  Once they have entered the plant, there really isn’t much you can do.  I have read that you can split open the stem, remove the borer, and cover the incision with dirt.  I have had no luck with this as the plant dies anyway.  I have found the easiest and most effective thing to do is used Bacillus thuringeniensis regularly. (See Article 8, Biological Insect Controls.)

WINTER SQUASH

Winter squash such as (pumpkins, butternut, acorn and others), do well in the desert southwest and can easily be grown organically. They do prefer some afternoon shade, especially during June.  Pumpkins will take over the garden, so give them lots of room.  Squash vine borers also attack these, but butternut squash seem to be somewhat resistant, as the borers seem to prefer larger stemmed plants. Using Bacillus thuringeniensis will prevent investations.

 


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