If you spend more than ten minutes outside in the Arizona summer heat, you wouldn’t believe that keeping a garden alive is remotely possible during those months. With proper care and planning though, a thriving garden is still possible during the triple digit days. Similar to taking care of yourself, adequate shade and water can keep plants alive throughout the summer. We’ll dive into those tips, and more so you can keep some greenery growing, even when it feels scorching outside.
Shade – While it might seem counterintuitive to shade your plants from the sun, something they need to grow, the sun in Arizona can be too much for plants, so adding shade limits the amount they’re exposed to. You’ll see many shade cloths sold around the valley, as most people will use them to help provide cover for their cars. Don’t completely enclose your garden area but focus on providing relief when the sun is at its most intense. With just a few basic poles, you can easily set this up over even large gardens, and it’s equally easy to take down once the temperatures cool off.
Add Sunflowers – It’s in the name isn’t it? Sunflowers are well known for soaking up all the sun they can, even turning to face the sun as it moves (only in their youth though), so planting these around the edges of your garden will provide a bit of natural shade for your other plants. The obvious bonus here is that sunflowers are a gorgeous addition to any garden, and a favorite flower to give as a gift. Even better, once you grow them once, they often will reseed and pop up year after year.
Water Correctly – One of a number one things that Arizona residents tell visitors is to drink water, because no matter how obvious it might seem, it can often be forgotten. It’s the same story for your plants, you have to be consistent with watering, and watering correctly. The natural thinking would be that since it is hot you have to water more, and while that is true, you don’t want to go overboard. For the majority of your plants, you want to be watering enough that the soil is getting wet a foot down. An easy way to check this is to take a screwdriver and dig a small hole about a foot down and see if the soil is damp or not. Two other quick watering tips are to water the soil (not the plant), and to water in the morning when the soil will better absorb.
Mulch – One of the most underrated tools in keeping a garden thriving is mulch, which has a variety of benefits. First, mulch will help insulate your soil to keep the temperature down and evened out throughout your space. Mulching also helps slow evaporation, so the water you use is actually getting soaked into the ground rather than absorbing straight into the air. Similarly, mulch will prevent your soil from drying out on top to the point that it is hard for it to absorb any of the water you give it. Lastly, weeds are far less likely to sprout in mulch, which means your garden stays full of plants and not weeds, which also will compete for water.
Adjust your expectations – While a garden is still very much possible in summer, you are less likely to have fruits and vegetables sprouting out like you would in winter or spring. Many plants will go into what is called “summer dormancy” where they are more focused on staying alive than bearing lots of fruit and growing. Don’t stress too much, as keeping your plants alive throughout an Arizona summer is an accomplishment in itself, and you should be rewarded fruitfully in the cooler seasons.
What are your tips for a successful summer garden in a desert climate?
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