The harsh desert conditions in Arizona aren’t the most conducive to a flourishing vegetable garden. High temperatures, lack of rainfall, low humidity, and alkaline soil present a unique set of challenges for those looking to grow their own crops in the Grand Canyon State. However, with some careful planning, even novice gardeners can bring their dream garden to life. Here are tips you can use to start a vegetable garden in Arizona.
You know what they say—location, location, location. Finding an ideal location to start your garden is the best way to set it up for success.
Your vegetable garden will need at least six hours of sunshine per day. Take a walk around your yard in the early morning and take note of where the first rays of sunlight hit first. This is a great location for your garden. You can also use apps like Sun Seeker or LightTrac to visualize the position of the sun throughout the day.
While your garden needs a fair amount of sun, too much sun can create problems. Therefore, shade is crucial in ensuring your garden is able to stay cool during hot summer days. If your garden is in the south or west-facing portion of your yard, it will likely need extra shade. Here are a few ways you can provide it:
Shade cloth can provide relief from the sun when it’s at its highest (and warmest). Don’t drape the cloth directly over your plants, as this can trap heat and damage them. Instead, you can build an easy canopy using a few wooden stakes to provide protection while still creating airflow. You can also attach the shade cloth to trellises, fencing, walls, tall trees, or whatever else is currently in your garden.
Shade cloth comes in different varieties with more or less coverage for plants that can withstand different levels of sun exposure. Generally, a coverage of 40-60% is sufficient for vegetables in the summer.
Outdoor umbrellas can shade your garden and provide a fun hint of style to your backyard. Make sure and angle the umbrella so the garden is not completely shaded and won’t block out the vital early morning sun.
Sunflowers can provide natural shade with floral flair to your garden. Sunflowers are easy to grow from seeds and blossom quickly, which make them ideal for providing shade to nearby plants.
It may go without saying, but your vegetable garden needs water to survive. Make sure your garden is planted near a water source, like a hose, so you can water it with ease.
When you’re just starting out, a smaller garden will be much easier to manage than a larger one. A good beginner’s garden size is 10 x 10 feet. This gives you enough space to plant a 3-5 different vegetables. If your yard isn’t large enough to accommodate that size, you can plant a smaller garden or get creative with space-saving vertical gardens.
The native soil in Phoenix may be great for growing desert vegetation, but it’s not great for a vegetable garden. Use a generous mix of gardening soil and compost instead. At most, your garden should have no more than 20-25% native soil. This is why raised vegetable gardens are especially popular amongst Arizona gardeners, because they allow you to completely control the soil conditions. You can DIY a raised garden bed or purchase a premade one.
You’ll need tools to help plant, prune, and harvest your garden. There’s no need to spend a lot of money when you’re just starting out—just stick to the basic tools and essentials, including:
Arizona has two distinct growing seasons, spring and fall, that you’ll need to keep in mind as you plant your first vegetable garden. You can strategically plan your planting schedule around a planting calendar for best results. If you’re looking for easy to grow vegetables that can survive in Arizona, consider planting a few of the following:
It’s important to water your garden to counteract the drying effects of the harsh desert sun but be careful not to overwater. During the summer, your garden may need to be watered once a day, but during the rest of the year, once or twice a week may be sufficient. Morning is the best time to water your garden. It’s best to spend some time in your garden each morning to see which plants look healthy and which are looking a bit withered or droopy before watering. Make sure and water the soil, and not the leaves of each plant.
Organic mulch is composed of organic matter such as leaves, straw, grass clippings, compost and more. You can purchase bags of mulch at any garden center. A 3-inch thick layer of mulch can help protect the roots of your plants from extreme temperatures, and help them conserve moisture. It also prevents the growth of weeds. Simply add the layer of mulch on top of the soil in your garden during each season.
Scorpions, insects, and other desert pests can threaten your garden. You can use insect sprays to keep bugs at bay, and chicken wire or similar fencing to keep larger critters from entering the garden.
After putting in all the hard work and starting your first vegetable garden, you can look forward to harvesting your first crops. Fresh garden-ready vegetables make great healthy additions to meals for the whole family. From salads and sauces to soups and snacks, the possibilities are endless.
At Shoppers Supply, we carry all the tools and supplies you need to flex your green thumb and grow the garden of your dreams. Visit one of our locations in Chandler or Apache Junction, Arizona to find gardening essentials at great prices.