In the Garden:
Southwestern Deserts
January, 2005
Regional Report

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Volunteer arugula fills in a cactus garden.

Surprises in the Winter Garden

A low-growing carpet of dark green seedlings in my cactus garden caught my eye a few weeks ago. Squeezed amongst the boulders near a beavertail cactus, they were volunteers of unknown origin that had sprouted within days of a soaking winter rain. I sometimes scatter leftover wildflower seeds in that area, so I let them go and didn't bother to bend close to try to identify them as friend or weed.

This turned out to be lucky laxness on my part, as I enjoyed zippy fresh arugula in my scrambled eggs this morning! That green carpet is now about 6 inches high and is readily identifiable by its pungent, peppery taste. A few years back, I had planted a mesclun mix that contained arugula in the veggie area. I let all those greens go to seed because beneficial pollinators were very attracted to the flowers. The arugula has been popping up in unusual places ever since.

It looks healthy and lush in its present challenging locale, which is a northern exposure next to a wall. This is interesting because it gets minimal sun at this time of year and no irrigation beyond rain water. Plants are pretty tough characters, and their will to survive is strong. Don't let minimal space or imperfect growing conditions prevent you from experimenting with different plants in the new year.

A New Year's Wish List
If you haven't already done so, jot down a list of New Year's Gardening Resolutions. Grow sunflowers to bring the beauty of a sunny day indoors. Transplant a yellow pear tomato to enjoy mouth-watering treats fresh from the vine. Sow fast-germinating radishes and marigolds to intrigue the children in your life and start them on the path to gardening. Promise yourself to plunge your hands into the soil regularly, and the intangible benefits of gardening will cascade into every area of your life. Happy New Year!


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