It is time to celebrate! Happy Saint Patrick's Day! Or, if you go for history, Happy Ides of March! Or, if you are a local gardener, celebrate Official Last Frost Date! To top this off, it is National Nutrition Month.

With these last two in mind, let's go plant our spring vegetable garden. A reader who clips my columns called me and notified me that I have written on the other Tucson garden seasons, but never addressed what to plant in mid-March. Mea Culpa and read on.

Since I have covered how to create the garden in the past, this will be a discussion of the varieties of plants that I have found to be successful in our area. Seeds can be found at area nurseries, in heirloom catalogs, online, and at the Native Seeds/SEARCH new store at 3061 N. Campbell.

Amaranth. Good for vibrant red "greens" when young and good for gluten-free grain-like seeds when ripe. Amaranth greens look great in the salad bowl, and taste great too, sort of like spinach but not as sharp.

Basil. Select from smaller leaf varieties for better heat tolerance. I generally grow a Thai basil like "Queen of Siam" from any nursery and "Mrs. Burns' Famous Lemon Basil" from Native Seeds.

Black eyed peas (which are really a bean) like the warming soils of spring. In fact many beans are best planted now. Bush beans and pole beans, any variety you like to eat. I try something new every year. It is too early for the native tepary beans, which prefer monsoon season.

Sweet corn, first crop. Find an early-maturing variety. The second crop of corn is planted in the monsoon season. Sweet corn is ideally a spring corn in our area, and I try something different each year. I have discovered better results with the dry corn or popping corn in monsoon season.

Chilies are ideally planted now. I plant some chiltepenes for the birds and some chili de arbol for me. Yes, they are the mildest chili. I like mild chilies. I'm a chili wimp. I get my seed from the dried chili de arbol in bulk bins at Food City. These chilies do best in part shade, like under a palo verde or mesquite tree. Native to our area, they don't need to take up space in the vegetable garden.

Cucumber does best if planted now. I like the heirloom "lemon" cucumbers for our area. Lemon cucumbers don't taste lemony, they are lemon sized with a pleasant yellow skin when ripe. This makes them very easy to spot amidst the green leaves. Their smaller mature size means they are less likely to suffer "blossom end rot" caused by the high calcium levels in our soils.

Eggplant can be planted now. The smaller fruited varieties do best in our region. Protect from curious birds as the fruit ripens.

Gourds, gourds, gourds! This includes luffa, technically a gourd, that is dried and the skin crumbled off to provide a delightful spa sponge.

Drat, I'm almost out of space. The rest are: Jerusalem artichoke, melons, okra, peppers (bell), radish, summer squash (zucchini, Italian, Patty Pan), winter squash (acorn, butternut, pumpkins), sunflowers, and tomatillos. And last but not least, America's favorite vegetable, tomatoes.

Vegetables fresh from your own garden taste so much better than those from the supermarket. Plant away!

It is easy to add a room or two onto your home by creating outdoor rooms with a planned landscape. It need not cost very much either. Turn your yard into delightful outdoor rooms with lush, desert adapted plants. To find out which plants to use and where, call for a private consultation. Call me, Jacqueline, at 292-0504. Please leave a voice message.

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