Warm climates such as the desert Southwest enjoy sunny, mild winters. Frost occurs only a few nights each winter, and the danger of frost usually is over by mid-February. This allows gardeners to plant and harvest up to three crops during the year. Cool season vegetables such as peas are planted first. By April the soil is warm enough to plant summer favorites such as tomatoes and corn. And warm climate gardeners get to cultivate a fall crop, again of cool season varieties including kale and lettuce.
Late Winter Planting
Turn the soil several times with a shovel to reduce compaction. Add two inches of compost to improve the nutrient content and thoroughly work it into the soil.
Install a drip irrigation system. These bring the water close to the plants' roots. Don't rely on sprayers, which don't provide each plant with the right amount of water, particularly in the hotter months when more irrigation is required.
Get the garden going early by planting vegetables in seed cups or trays and growing them indoors while frost danger persists. Start the vegetables six weeks before you intend to transplant them. Spinach, kale, chard and peas are popular early spring crops.
Warm the soil by placing clear plastic sheets in between the rows of newly transplanted vegetables to help plants cope with lingering cool temperatures.
Plant the vegetables in time for them to finish producing by the date the spring/summer crops are to be planted.
Choose varieties with shorter growing seasons so you can harvest the fruit before the extremely hot summer weather sets in and the plants become stressed. Plant tomatoes, corn, melons, peppers and squash at this time. Squash plants mature 50 to 65 days after being planted, but you can pick the fruit before it has matured fully.
Protect vegetables from intense heat by planting the spring/summer crops in an area that is shaded from the afternoon sun, such as the east side of a fence.
Fertilize every third watering with half strength water-soluble fertilizer. Water deeply and less often to encourage root growth.
Plant the vegetables in seed trays in August. Put them in a shaded area during the hottest times of the day.
Transplant seedlings in late September to take advantage of the warm conditions and abundant sunshine.
Plant leafy greens such as kale and spinach. Peas and beans are good choices--peas can be harvested within 50 days after planting--as are root vegetables such as beets and carrots. Plant rapidly growing varieties to begin harvesting in November.
About this Author
Brian Hill's first writing credit was the cover story for a national magazine. He is the author of three popular books, "The Making of a Bestseller," "Inside Secrets to Venture Capital" and "Attracting Capital from Angels." Among his magazine article credits are the March 2005 and June 2008 issues of "The Writer." His interests include golf, football, movies and his two dogs.