As all good things must come to an end, it is time for me to say farewell to the readers of my column. My family and I have made the decision to relocate to the Pacific Northwest, and will be leaving Payson soon. Thank-you to all who have made this Rim country garden column a success, especially the editors of the Payson Roundup. You have made my fantasy to write about the things I love, and have those writings published, a reality.
I am thrilled to be able to leave this column in such capable hands, as those of Carol Clapp. You will all enjoy her words of wisdom, humorous quips, and gardening advice which comes from many years of experience in many different places. As I sign off, my last bit of advice to you is "mulch, mulch, mulch."
-- Barb Bourscheidt
It is not easy following Barb Bourscheidt, for years she's been a great source of information as to what you could be doing in your gardens.
I hope my words will be as useful to you and as enjoyable to read. So long as they make you smile, it will be a good day. I have always had green fingers.
As soon as I could toddle, I sowed seeds of carrots and lettuce in my garden in southern England -- flowers didn't interest me much then, it was the vegetables which fascinated me, especially the uncommon ones.
Fifty years ago, I became hooked on cacti. Yes, that was in England. I had several greenhouses full of cacti and other succulent plants. The heating bill was huge as they needed heating for most of the year. I became an accredited judge of these plants and continue judging them here in America.
Leaving my collection of plants in UK when I came to America in 1993, it wasn't long before a new collection began. This time it was near San Francisco, one of the easiest places in the world to grow semi-tender succulent plants. Our garden became beautiful and soon I was awarded the District Gardener of the Year Certificate by the National Garden Clubs organization.
The planting beds were divided into the natural habitats of the plants themselves. People came to visit, and get geography and botanical lessons.
While in California I became a Master Gardener in Alameda County.
Arizona gardening is different from growing things in northern California, so I became a Master Gardener in Gila County with a special interest in sustainable forests and the best use of water. Life is a continuous process of learning -- if you stop learning, you sure have one foot in the grave.
When we moved to the Rim country, our property was covered with eight-foot high brush, mainly scrub oaks, with a few large oak trees, junipers and pines. Much of this is ladder fuel, the short stems leading fire to the lower branches of tall trees, then up to their crowns and jumping over to nearby trees.
After cutting over six tons of these ladder fuels and taking it to the brush pits or the dump where it was weighed, I needed some help to clear the rest of the surplus brush. Goats were the answer.
Having grown up with goats it was good to have an excuse for getting some more. Not only do they eat vigorously, they disturb the top surface of the soil, fertilize it, and allow the rain to sink in instead of running off.
Select your garden plants with care. We love our pines and certainly wouldn't want to be without them, but you have the choice of some delightful deciduous trees in this area and these do not burn as fiercely as resinous conifers.
How about a flowering plum, Prunus cerasifera "Newport"? After the mass of pale pink flowers in March come the dark purple leaves. In the fall, the leaves will drop and can be put into your compost pile. Trees which drop their leaves in the fall provide shade in summer for small plants while giving them more sun through their bare stems in winter.
By contrast, apple trees have green leaves in summer after pretty pink flowers in springtime, and also provide intermittent shade. And food. After preparing the ground I intend to plant some Granny Smith apple trees. They are as near as I can find which will grow in this zone to the wonderful Bramley apples of England. The finest cooking apple in the world.
If you plant fruit trees, check that you have the right pollinating tree with it. Some are self-fertile, but some are not. Our local nurserymen will be able to give you this information.
Or, if you have been through the plant nursery catalogs early in the year, you may have noted already which trees need another in order to produce fruit.
Remember that container plants may usually be planted in open ground at any time of the year, provided frost does not get into the dug hole and you can be there to attend to their watering needs for at least two weeks to give them the best chance of survival.
If you haven't already done it, now is the time to plant your tomatoes outside. As damaging frosts should be behind us, it is a good time also to select your summer annuals from the great choice now available at your local nurseries and get them out into your planting areas for summer color. And as Barb says "Remember to mulch!"