With extreme heat and low precipitation, gardening in Arizona can be challenging. The native clay soil, although home to many desert-adapted plants, doesn’t help fruits and vegetables. Nonetheless, because we are home to abundant sunshine, and the ability to work the land year-round, it is possible to have a thriving garden at your Shea Homes® Arizona home. Remembering the three S’s can improve your green thumb and help your vegetables survive.
Here in the Valley of the Sun, we receive a lot of sun (hence our name). Florida may be named, “The Sunshine State,” but Arizona takes the title with nearly 300 sunny days in the year, however, the sun can be your best friend or worst enemy for gardening. While most crops need sunlight to grow, too much could wilt away your vegetables. It’s important to keep in mind that the morning sun is ideal as the rays are still strong but give off less heat. Take a look around your yard and notice what spots are hit by the morning sun and plant there. You may not always be able to choose where you plant, so if your garden is hit by the afternoon sun, provide some shade to help your plants survive, especially during the summer.
The soil your plants sit in can be the most determinant factor for the health of your garden. Consider making a combination of compost, coconut coir or peat moss, and vermiculite. This type of soil can provide nutrients to your plants as they grow.
Another tip is to make sure the soil is moist. Check on your garden each day and assess whether you need to water your plants. In the hotter, drier, and windier seasons, you will need to water the soil more, preferably in the morning. Raised-bed gardens may need to be watered every day as they won’t be receiving any moisture from the ground. Mulching the top layer of your garden can also help preserve moisture and protect roots from extreme temperatures.
Instead of one long growing season, in Arizona, we have three shorter planting seasons – cool-season crops, warm-season crops, and monsoon-season crops.
Cool-season crops grow from September to March, when the heat begins to fall off and just before we start to see it return. The crops that grow the best in this time frame can be remembered with the acronym BRAG.
Brassicas: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts, and bok choy
Roots: carrots, radishes, beets, parsnips, and turnips
Alliums: onions and garlic
Greens: arugula, chard, collards, kale, lettuce, mustard, and spinach
Warm-season crops thrive best from February through May/June. Crops included in this season are beans, cucumber, eggplant, melons, pepper, pumpkin, squash, sweet corn, sweet potato, and tomatoes. These vegetables do not survive when the frost comes and need warm Arizona temperatures to properly mature.
Monsoon planting season begins with the increased rain and humidity of July or August. It’s easy to remember the crops that do well in this season with the ABCs – amaranth, beans, and corn.
Planting the right crop at the right time will increase the chance of its success, so keep in mind the three S’s as you begin to plan your garden.