A green living and sustainability innovator, Peterson is the owner of The Urban Farm, a real-world environmental showcase home in the heart of Phoenix.


May is a great time to get your garden going and there are three important things you need to take into consideration: location, soil and seasons. A major miss in any of these three areas will confirm your misdiagnosis of brown thumb. I have found that most people who think they can’t grow simply don’t have the knowledge they need to succeed. My goal at The Urban Farm is to share how easy it is to grow your own!

First, look to find the perfect location for your garden. Here in the low desert with our extreme heat, an eastern exposure (which gets sun from sunup till noonish) will be your best place for a garden. Take note that a western exposure is likely to be too extreme since it gets sun from noon till sundown, and a northern exposure will likely not get any sun.

Second, growing plants in the dirt that you have in your yard is sure to leave you deeply dissatisfied. Your job as an urban farmer and gardener is to grow healthy soil. That is done by adding lots of compost and planting mix. I say you can’t add enough and, often, I will add two inches of compost on top of my garden and plant away.

Third, planting what is right for the season is imperative. Do not trust your big box stores and nurseries to bring in the correct plants for the season. Get a local planting calendar like the one at www.plantingcalendar.org.

If you think you have a brown thumb, it might be time to reconsider that. In my experience, if you pay attention to your garden placement, soil and planting seasons, you can build a thriving garden even here in the desert…and, in the process, grow yourself a green thumb.

Greg Peterson is a green living and sustainability innovator who is well known regionally. He has his master’s degree in Urban and Environmental Planning from Arizona State University. Greg is the owner of the Urban Farm (www.urbanfarm.org), a real-world environmental showcase home in the heart of Phoenix. The Urban Farm features an entirely edible landscape, including over 75 fruit trees, rainwater and greywater harvesting, three solar applications, and extensive use of reclaimed and recycled building materials. The site is opened periodically throughout the year to the public and offers classes, lectures and tours.

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