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Winter gardens?

C.F. Yankovich
Posted 11/14/23

Welcome to November, the in-between month after Halloween and before the Christmas rush.

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Winter gardens?


Welcome to November, the in-between month after Halloween and before the Christmas rush. The name derives from the Latin word novem (nine) because originally November was the ninth month of the Roman calendar.

Originally, the Roman calendar had 10 months and began in March, but tradition says that the second king of Rome added January and February to the end of the year to make the calendar work better. The fifth king of Rome decided to begin the year with January because Janus was the god of beginnings.

Confusing people, those Romans.

What does November mean to gardeners in the middle elevations of Arizona? 

According to most sources, November is too late to plant anything, but this year’s weather has been warm. If you want to experiment, root vegetables (turnips, carrots, radishes, etc.) and greens (cabbage, lettuces, etc.) may thrive over the rest of the winter.

If you have a winter garden, remember to mulch. Most people don’t think about mulching in the fall, which is why garden centers stock mostly shredded plastic mulch over the winter. But mulch helps plants even during the winter by helping to retain moisture and heat in the soil. Organic mulches can add nutrients to the soil, too.

To keep your bill for mulch from breaking your budget, try using shredded leaves or straw (available from the local farm centers). Some people suggest newspapers, but unless you know that your newspapers were printed with soy ink, don’t risk adding poisonous chemicals to your soil. Instead, consider using unbleached filters to brew your coffee, and spread them over the garden soil.

Another chore before the holiday whirl is planning for frost protection. Protecting winter vegetables and strawberries from cold nights can keep your garden producing until spring.

Greenhouse-hoops/growing-tunnel kits can be ordered from Amazon and Walmart. I used them last year for my large, raised beds and learned the following:

They do keep plants warm and productive.

The poly covering lasts about two months and shreds in high winds. Plan on replacing it two or three times per winter.

The click-together plastic hoops tend to fall apart. Using construction adhesive (Liquid Nails) helps but does not totally solve the problem.

Stainless steel greenhouse clips/clamps make a less expensive and more durable substitute for plastic chip clamps.

The hoops are reusable. They will last for several seasons.

Will I reuse my hoops for the large, raised beds again this year? Yes, simply because I already have them. 

One hoop kit will protect several tubs of strawberries or herbs, but supports for the covers can be less expensive. You will still need clips and covering.

A storage organizer plate rack spans the top of my single strawberry tub. It’s not a perfect fit, but it works, and it sparked an idea for protecting my twin strawberry and onion tubs.

The tunnel support in the photo started out as a wire shelf. It was cut to the width of the strawberry tubs plus 2 feet. I cut a couple of support wires at 1 foot from each end. Finally, I bent the shelf downward at the cuts 1 foot from each end. The construction won’t win any awards for fine craftsmanship, but it serves to protect from winter cold and summer sun.  Clip shade screen to the top to keep the strawberries from scalding. (To keep from losing the shade screen, I clip it to the north side of the tunnel support.) Cover the structure with poly anti-frost fabric or a piece of old sheet to keep the berries producing into December.