This month is the best time to plant a winter garden in Yuma. By the end of October, temperatures have calmed a bit and tend to stay below 90 degrees, but the soil is still warm, which encourages seeds to sprout quickly.

Prepare the soil by amending with compost or steer manure and digging the amendments in well. Water the bed and allow the soil to dry sufficiently before planting seeds or transplants. What to plant depends upon what you like to eat. Sow seeds for peas, root crops (beets, carrots, radishes, turnips), cucumbers, leafy greens (lettuces, Swiss chard, mustards, romaine) and the cabbage family (broccoli, bok choy, cauliflower, cabbage, kale).

With so many vegetables to choose from, the size of your garden will be the determining factor as to how many varieties you plant. Plant seeds 3 inches apart and thin once sprouted. Plant transplants 12 inches apart.

I enjoy cooking with herbs and always grow mints, common basil, Thai basil, lemon balm, thyme, rosemary, cilantro and lemongrass. It’s great fun to step outside and snip herbs to add to dishes I am preparing.

For our winter visitors or apartment dwellers, container gardening allows you to easily have a garden. Find a spot that receives at least six hours of sunlight daily. When it comes to containers, large, light-weight pots that hold moisture longer work well. Choose your favorite veggies to plant, and tuck flowers in at least one pot to attract pollinators.

Raised beds that are waist high are popular for gardening in a small space. They make gardening easy for someone who cannot rest on their knees or bend down. Commercial beds are available online, or you can have a local carpenter construct as many as you wish. Add good quality soil to your raised bed and plant veggies for great-tasting produce later on. There are as many recipes for soil mixes as there are gardeners, and most work quite well. One recipe is a mixture of compost, steer manure, peat moss or coconut coir fiber (to increase drainage) and garden soil. If you use regular soil from your yard, water plants with a balanced synthetic fertilizer of 5-5-5 or 10-10-10 (nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium). If your soil is alkaline, dig in a bag of ammonium sulfate to lower the pH level and add nitrogen to feed your plants.

Organic material, such as steer manure or compost, contains nutrients that are slowly released and last for a longer period of time. Organic material also helps improve the soil’s quality by providing food for microbes living in the soil, and it loosens the soil for faster drainage.

Leaf lettuces mature in about two months, while romaine takes three months and head lettuce takes around 3½ months. You can plant leaf lettuce seeds every two weeks to have a continual supply throughout the winter.

After a long, hot summer, everyone is ready to garden. Take part in the fun and plant a vegetable garden this month.

Happy gardening.

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