Organic bounty in a high desert canyon
Guests at Garland’s Oak Creek Lodge come to enjoy its bucolic setting near Sedona, Arizona. They also come for the pleasure of dining on organically grown vegetables and fruits harvested from the lodge’s bountiful vegetable garden and orchard, located in a sheltered canyon at an elevation of 5,000 feet.
Mario Valeruz oversees the lodge’s 1/4-acre vegetable garden and a greenhouse, plus herb beds filled with everything from basil to tarragon. He orders seeds in January from the Cook’s Garden (800/457-9703 or www.cooksgarden.com) and Johnny’s Selected Seeds (207/437-9294 or www.johnnyseeds.com). He starts seeds in the greenhouse in March and transplants the seedlings into the garden mid-May. His longtime favorites include ‘Aria’ cucumbers, ‘Celebrity’ tomatoes, ‘Fortex’ pole beans, ‘Neon’ eggplants, ‘Sunburst’ pattypan squash, ‘Blue Hubbard’ winter squash, ‘Gold Rush’ zucchini, ‘NuMex Joe E. Parker’ chile peppers, and ‘Yankee Bell’ sweet peppers.
Valeruz uses drip-irrigation tape to water seedlings when they’re first planted. He mulches the garden with straw to keep soil moisture in and discourage weeds. Valeruz intersperses insectary plants throughout the garden, such as carrots, chives, dill, and marigolds, to attract beneficial insects which provide natural pest control.