Spring is here and it is time to get out your gardening tools and start your seeds. Here in Arizona, the key to creating a bountiful garden is to know what to plant and when to plant it. This is a lesson many transplants from other parts of the country often learn the hard way when they try to use the same timelines and techniques that worked for them in other places to grow a garden here in the desert.
While it may seem like a daunting task to toss much of what you know about gardening out the window and relearn to garden in warm weather from scratch, it doesn’t have to be difficult. To help you get your garden growing, here are 6 helpful tips for starting your first warm weather garden.
1. Know Your Seasons
Most gardeners will agree that there are two growing seasons in Arizona, spring and fall. In order to succeed, you need to pick the right plants for that part of the year as some plants prefer the warmer temperatures seen in the spring season and others prefer the colder temperatures that come with the fall season.
2. Swap How You Think of the Seasons
For those used to gardening in the eastern and Midwest regions of the country, summer is the primary season for gardening. But here in the desert, the summer months are deadly for backyard gardens because it is simply too hot and too dry. So, while you may be used to thinking of the summer as the time to sow, the fall as the time to harvest, and the winter as the time to hibernate, you need to shift your thinking. For good details on what grows best at which points in the year, you can use this guide from the University of Arizona.
3. Pick the Right Location
As with all types of gardening, plants in the desert need lots of sun, but since you are likely planting during seasons that are different than you are used to, it will pay off to take a little time to see where the sun is over the course of a day during the two growing seasons.
4. Start Small
It can take a little time to become accustomed to warm weather gardening which means it may be more beneficial to start out small so that you can get a feel for what works before investing a lot of time and money into a full size backyard garden.
5. Supplement the Soil
While you may have been able to use general topsoil from your yard to grow a garden in other places in the country, here in Arizona you will need to supplement any native soil with a compost mixture. This will address the lack of organic matter common to desert soil.
6. Worry About Water
Water may not have been a critical concern in your previous gardening experiences but it has to be when you are warm weather gardening. Make sure your plants are getting water all the way down to at least 1 foot deep. However, it is as important not to overwater as it is not to underwater. This is why you need to monitor the amount of water your plants are getting and adjust as needed to keep them healthy.
A great local resource for Arizona gardeners is the Master program through the University of Arizona. You can find out more about the program and training dates on their website.