Kailey Foster: Joining me today to discuss gardening in southern Utah is Rick Heflebower, USU Extension Horticulturist in Washington County.
First, what is the gardening season like in southern Utah?
RH: So usually February is the beginning of our gardening season for the spring. Generally, by about the 15th or so, the temperatures will start to moderate. In the daytime, we might get up as high as 55, or even 60 degrees this time of year.
KF: When I think of starting a garden, I don't necessarily think about starting in February, what are people able to plant now?
RH: Yeah, that is a good question. We get so hot in May and June that we have to take advantage of our cool weather.
So in the last two weeks of February, people will be looking at planting lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, so the leafy green type of vegetables. They also will probably think about some of the root vegetables. These would be things like radishes, onions, maybe turnips, probably beets. Now they might wait just a little bit longer to plant carrots, carrots, like the soil to be warm. But any of those other root vegetables, you could plant now.
It does not matter if it gets cold or snows a little bit. These vegetables will take the mildly cold weather fine. When I say mild, I mean it can be 32 degrees. And they would be just fine. If it got down into the middle 20s something like spinach might wilt. But as long as they are a sturdy plant; meaning they haven't just been planted, they will survive that cultists fine.
KF: What can gardeners use to help their plants this early in the season?
RH: So one of the things that we do a lot of times when it's still quite chilly, especially when there's a chance of frost, which there will be even down here until the first of April. So one thing people use is something called a frost blanket.
A frost blanket is a cover made out of spun-bonded polyester material. It's the thickness where you can't quite see-through, but it's light enough that if you lay it on top of your vegetables. It won't bend the plant over and won't break stems or anything like that.
It does hold the heat. So, for example, if it was going to get cold tonight, and I already had my leafy green vegetables planted, I could take this frost blanket, and I could put it just one layer thick over the top of my vegetables. And I would weigh the sides down so that it wouldn't blow over.
This will give around three to five degrees of warmth above the outside temperature.
KF: And finally, where can people go to get more information?
RH: Well, probably one of the best places would be the Utah State University Yard and Garden website. And if you're looking for specific information, like maybe 'when do I start my in say Washington County', then you'd want to go to the specific extension websites.