Arizona is not the friendliest place to garden as many “transplants” to the desert may have discovered. It takes a special set of skills that are very different from those needed in other climates. As fall lurks just around the corner, I always get lots of questions about how to start a garden in the desert Southwest. So, I have developed a quick set of guidelines designed to help jumpstart your gardening adventures.
- Sun —Your gardens’ exposure to the sun is one of the most critical elements of success. Here in the desert Southwest be sure to position your garden so that it is out of direct sunlight by mid to late afternoon. The easiest way to do this is to plant your garden on the east or south side of a structure. Trying to grow your garden on the west or north side of a structure can be futile as the west gets too much sun and the north not enough.
- Soil — Just as vital as putting healthy food in our body, providing healthy soil is key to growing a great garden. Our desert soils greatly benefit from adding a vigorous dose of organic compost that is worked into the soil. This provides the nutrients your plants need and creates a great environment for establishing strong, productive roots.
- Seeds — Planting the right kind of seeds at the right time of year will add to your bounty. For a robust spring harvest, your fall planting can include root crops such as carrots, radishes and beets; brassicas such as broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts; and leafy greens such as lettuce, spinach and arugula. Three bonus crops to plant this time of year are edible nasturtiums, garlic and snow peas, which all do very well in our desert climate, and they add lovely color and taste to our meals.
It is very possible to grow a significant amount of your food right in your own yard. (This can translate to less driving to the grocery store, too.) For a first steps to your success download the free planting calendar at www.plantingcalendar.org and oh hey, it’s still a desert… don’t forget to water regularly.