Todd Cislo – Extremes of Growing in Flagstaff
Todd Cislo has been gardening in Flagstaff for more than 20 years, dealing with extreme cold, high intensity sun, poor soil, lack of moisture, hail, and wind. Because our soils lack organic matter, he emphasized that you should not be afraid to amend your soil – add a lot of organic matter and keep adding it. Also, because our soils are very alkaline do not be afraid to add pine needles. They take a long time to decompose so they are best used as mulch to shade the soil but do not worry if you mix some into your soil.
Todd gardens all year in Flagstaff. He does have a greenhouse, but he mainly uses home-built hoop houses to garden. His beds are raised beds - either native rock or cinder block. The rock and cinder block hold heat. For the hoop houses, he uses ½ inch PVC pipe set about 12 inches into the ground for the frame and heavier frost cloth for the covering. He uses sandbags or rocks at most of the corners to secure the cloth. His beds are generally about 20 feet long and about 3 feet wide so that they are easy to reach into from either side. To vent the hoop houses, he attaches a length of PVC pipe to the frost cloth, rolls the pipe up the side of the hoops and fastens it to a hoop. When it gets really cold, he places a second layer of frost cloth on small hoops inside the larger hoops. The small hoops are closer to the plants and the two layers keep the plants warm enough. The hoop houses are very flexible so they survive high winds by leaning over and springing back up. When it snows, he just brushes the snow off.