Gardening for Arizona Summer Survivors and Other Interested Persons

African Daisies from my front yard last February

It’s gardening time in Arizona.  Hard to believe but true. Most of the northern hemisphere has already experienced an early taste of winter, a dash of snow, some frost, some dang is it really that time of year again driving.

Here in this odd pocket of strangeness that is the desert southwest, (no I’m not going to capitalize it) we are finally coming into our own, emerging from our air-conditioned caves, cars and hovels, to the bright new season that is sanity.

There is a good reason the town is named Phoenix.  A mythical bird that rises from the ashes.  That would be us, the desert rats, I mean, dwellers, the real survivors.  We don’t sneak away during the heat and come back later when it cools down like the snowbirds have the luxury of doing.  But that’s just me being bitter.  Sorry.

We come out in droves once the temperatures begin to stay below 90 degrees and the night-time temperature dip into the 70’s.  This morning it is a brisk and chilly 50 degrees if I step outside, which I’m not going to do since I’m still in my jammies. Yes, I said, chilly.  It’s a sixty degree difference from the 110’s we, ahem, enjoy, during the summer onslaught.  So yes, 50 feel chilly.

With such reasonable and lovely temperatures outdoors we Arizonans begin to think life is once again livable and endurable and we head outdoors to do all sorts of things we can brag about to our northern neighbors.  We post photos on Facebook of ourselves in the pool on New Years Day even though the water truly is too cold for swimming.  We throw some steaks on the grill in January and call a sibling to incite more rivalry, which we miss dearly.  We plant a garden and text or online chat about the tomatoes we just ate fresh off the vine in February.

And then we wonder why we get so many visitors in the winter.  Go figure.

I digress.

It’s gardening season.

In honor of that, I’m sharing a batch of information and websites from a recent very amature class I taught about Arizona gardening.

It’s handy stuff if you’re interested in growing anything here in the desert, from a solitary pot of flowers, to an all out miniature farm in your backyard (which MSH would love, but I won’t allow.)

For those of you in the wintry states, it’s a bit of interesting reading if you like gardening.

A California poppy, from amidst the rocks of my front yard.

I might make a quick mention that if you want wildflowers to bloom amidst your rocks or elsewhere you have another week or two to scatter those African Daisy seeds or California Poppy seeds.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have not planted my garden yet this year.  I’m a slacker, yes.  At least this year I am.  I could give you all my lame excuses but that would be boring.  I’m happy to try to answer any gardening questions you might have if I can, but honestly, all the websites below are where I learned ninety percent of what I know about gardening here.  So check them out and learn.  Then grow!

Phoenix Area Gardening Basics

Sun 6 hours minimum is needed for a healthy garden.  Protection from afternoon sun is ideal but not absolutely necessary

Soil lots of compost/organic matter and gypsum added to your soil (6 inches deep) or buy several good potting soil mixes to spade in together

Season consult the planting guide for what to plant when (cool season or warm season)

Seeds – buy seeds that indicate early crop.  Store for up to 3 years if kept in a dry, cool spot, like inside your house. Dollar store kinds are fine. Our growing season is short, very short, hence the need for early crop varieties.

Water a timer hooked up to a sprinkler or drip system is easiest.  Deep watering on a regular schedule will promote a strong root system and a healthy plant.

The early stages of one of my square-foot garden beds, sadly, not this year.

Square foot gardens You will only need 20 percent of the ground you would use for the row-and-furrow method. Lay out your garden in 4-foot-square boxes (or multiples like  3 x 4, 4 x 4, 4 x 8) so you can reach in from either side. If you have a box along a wall or fence, then make it only 2 feet wide (or multiples like 2 by 4, 2 by 8, 2 by 12) because you can only work the garden from one side and you won’t have to walk on the soil.

Use Miracle-Gro garden soil (or any other high quality gardening soil) – about four bags of 2 cubic feet each per box. If you have more than three 4 by 4 boxes, call Pioneer Materials and order sandy loam soil. It costs only $45 (at least a couple years ago it did ) for delivery of 1 cubic yard or more. Tell them how many square foot you will need, times 6 inches deep to figure volume. (  (This blog is by the original guy who invented square-foot gardening!)

Containers Many plants do well in pots, especially herbs, tomatoes, peppers.  Just keep a closer eye on watering needs

Gardening Websites

*Timely Tips – what to do each month, problems you might encounter, and how to solve them.  Includes lawn care and some tree info.

*Herbs –  This site has great tips for soil preparation and discussions about herbs specifically and gardening generally

*Maricopa County Cooperative Extension – Anything you could possibly want to know or ask about gardening in Maricopa county.

*Flower planting guide – What to plant during which months, and bloom  times.

*Square Foot Gardening

Categories: Gardening, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Gardening for Arizona Summer Survivors and Other Interested Persons

  1. Kathy

    Ooohh, pretty! I hate winter even more. Save me some of your flower seeds?


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