All Your Phoenix Fall Gardening Questions Answered by Tomato Pro Suzanne Vilardi
Today we're introducing a new feature on Chow Bella, Now Growing, in which Kate Crowley talks to local gardeners about what's in the ground at the moment. Have a topic you'd like to see covered? Leave word in the comments section.
Photo courtesy of Vilardi Gardens. Just a portion of the "growings" from Vilardi Gardens.
Suzanne Vilardi of Vilardi Gardens has loved gardening since she planted her first seed at just four years old. About a decade ago she started researching herb and transplant growing businesses, and began growing tomato plants under specially designed lights and donating the plants to charity.
And then, at 55, she found herself laid off from a corporate job and decided to start Vilardi Gardens. It grew, to say the least
Photo from Suzanne Vilardi. Suzanne Vilardi.
So in February 2011 she took about 1,500 tomato plants to Slow Food's Tomatofest at The Farm at South Mountain and sold most of them. In February 2012, the team at Root Phoenix invited her to lease some growing space at The Urban Farm Nursery, where she grew more than 8,000 tomato plants for the spring season. She continues to serve several local nurseries and organic farmers as a wholesale supplier of edible transplants.
Chow Bella: What should Valley residents be planting now?
Suzanne Vilardi: Even though it still seems like summer outside, now is the time to plant fall gardens of Cole crops (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale), every kind of leafy green, most all the root crops (carrots, beets, turnips), onions, shallots and garlic and many types of ornamental and edible flowers. Really it is easier to list what we don't grow now, and with changes in weather patterns, many dedicated gardeners will take extra measures to protect plants from both high and low temperature extremes so they can extend both the fall and spring season.
Both of these calendars are simply guides and every seasoned gardener has a story about the Zucchini that survived two winters, the tomato that produced fruit in August or the Swiss chard that grew all summer long, defying all calendar recommendations.
CB: What is the easiest thing to grow this fall?
Photo from Vilardi Gardens. Gigante di Napoli Parsley at Vilardi Gardens.
SV: Leafy greens are easy to start from seed and have shallow root systems so they do well in containers. This means anyone with a few hours of patio sun can have a pot or two of their favorite fresh herbs or leafy greens at the ready.
CB: Do you recommend first time vegetable gardeners start with start plants or seeds?
Photo from Vilardi Gardens' facebook page. This lady knows how to grow.
SV: It depends on the crop. Certain edibles, like carrots, beans and corn do not transplant well and should be started from seed. Other crops, like tomatoes, peppers and eggplant are very difficult to direct sow and most people buy transplants. A first time gardener would do well to look over the gardening calendars and pick a few season-appropriate crops to start to learn with. Also there are many reasonably priced "Beginning Gardening" classes around town that help new gardeners learn about gardening in Arizona, which is very different from most other parts of the country. When people ask me "What should I grow?" I ask them "What do you like to eat?" For me, choosing what to plant is all about what tastes good!