Gardening Q & A with a Local: Meet Caitlin

When did you first discover your green thumb?  I was never really a plant person growing up— they kind of bored me. When I worked at Santa Rosa Library I helped take care of the vegetable garden and I’d water it a few times a week with kids who used the library every day. Watching their faces light up when their seeds sprouted was so much fun and that excitement started to translate to me. Vegetable gardening has helped me learn how to be more patient and I’m a better planner because of it.

What is your favorite time of year (season) to garden?  I can’t choose. I love waiting for broccoli buds to appear, or the first sign of cauliflower popping out under those two big leaves. Summer isn’t easy for growing things but it’s even more rewarding because of it. Watching how much my watermelon plants spread after a good monsoon soaking is so satisfying-- and so is going outside every morning to harvest new things I can cook later that night.

Biggest gardening success? Flop?  Biggest flop: my garden got mosaic virus last summer. All of my squash, melons and pumpkins died after a few months.  Biggest success: it was probably when I figured out hand pollination for the first time. I didn’t have any bees in my backyard last summer so I went out every morning and hand-pollinated flowers on my squash and melon plants. It was a lot of work, so I recommend trying to get those bees into your yard!

Do you grow from seed or starts? I mostly grow from seed.

Favorite recipe from your harvest?  Buffalo cauliflower is delicious!

What special challenges do you face gardening in the desert?  I haven’t gardened anywhere else so desert gardening feels normal to me. The biggest challenge we’re all facing is seasonal change. I only got one frost at my house this year so we basically skipped winter which means more bugs and possibly more diseases throughout spring and summer. I’m noticing a change in monsoon patterns, so the true desert planting schedules might be changing.

What are you growing now? And what are you ready to plant?  I’ll pull my winter garden when my spring starts are ready to transplant. I’m letting some broccoli and cauliflower go to seed and I’ve got lettuce, kale, Tohono O’odham onions, peppers, strawberries and tomatoes. I planted Brussels sprouts too late but it’s fun to watch them grow!

Planting dates- do you follow religiously or do you tempt fate and experiment with when to plant?  I’m kinda meticulous when it comes to planting because I really don’t want to waste my water or energy on something that won’t produce in the wrong weather conditions. I love the Tucson Planting Guide—you can find it at your local Seed Library!

Most indispensable garden tool?  I till my soil every season to loosen it up. I have a little hand tiller that I use—it’s awesome.

What’s your favorite gardening book?  Desert Gardening by George Brookbank. He just passed away last week—what an incredible guy.

If you were a plant, what plant would you be?  I’m probably a tomato plant because I need extra coverage in the cold!

Are you a seed saver? Yes!