So, you’re ready to begin the exciting world of starting your first vegetable garden? If you’ve ever been to a farmers’ market it’s kind of like setting up a mini one right in your own backyard. Let’s explore the nitty-gritty details to kickstart your veggie-growing adventure.
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Grow Vegetables in Phoenix: Easy Steps to Create a Vegetable Garden
Growing vegetables is a fun solo activity or you can include the whole family. Either way there is something very rewarding about growing your own food. Embarking on your first vegetable garden is like preparing a feast from scratch. You need the right ingredients, a little bit of patience, and a sprinkle of know-how. Let’s break it down step by step.
- Choose a garden location
- Decide the layout of your garden.
- What kind of vegetables do you want to grow?
- Determine how your garden will receive the required water.
- Get the appropriate tools for the job.
- Prepare your garden plot.
- Take a look at your local area planting guide. What can you plant right now?
- Pick out your seeds or transplants
Garden Location: Find the Right Spot to Grow Vegetables in Phoenix
The old adage location, location, location applies to gardening too. The most important step in vegetable gardening is finding the best spot. Take a look around your yard and identify a spot for your new garden.
Vegetables love sunlight, so aim for a location that receives at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight. The afternoon sun is pretty intense in Phoenix, so they will need some shade in the afternoon. Vegetables thrive in a spot that receives morning sun and afternoon shade.
To prevent your shorter plants from being too shaded plant these on the south side of your garden plot and the taller vegetables on the north side of your garden plot.
Every yard is different, so you’ll need to take a look at your outdoor space. Spend some time in the area you’re thinking of using as your garden spot. Some questions to consider when choosing a spot:
- Does it get sun in the morning or does it see more afternoon sun?
- Does it get full sun or partial sun?
- Are there any structures or existing trees that provide shade at different times of the day or in different seasons?
- What are your options for watering?
Garden Layout & Size
Next you’ll have to decide the size you garden you desire. If you’re starting your first garden, starting out small will be less overwhelming. Garden size will depend largely on the space you have available and the time and effort that you would like to spend maintaining your new garden.
Will your garden be traditional, in a raised bed, or in a container?
If your garden is in a traditional in-ground bed you will most likely need to till the ground and add organic matter to the soil. If your garden is in a raised bed you’ll need to either purchase or build a raised bed and then fill it with soil.
Decide Which Types of Vegetables to Plant
Which vegetables do you want to grow. Are you a fan of crunchy bell peppers, juicy tomatoes, crisp cucumbers or leafy greens? Consider your climate, available space, and personal preferences. Choose veggies that suit your taste and local growing conditions.
Water Your Garden
An irrigation system is the ideal way to go when creating a garden in Phoenix. Vegetables will need about an inch of water each week.
How often you water is important, but it is equally important to water deep enough. Vegetables need to be watered long enough for the water to reach 1 foot below the soil surface.
Drip emitters are a great choice to conserve water. They will provide water at the soil level near the plant’s roots rather than spraying water on the leaves. If you don’t have drip irrigation system another effective way to water is to use a soaker hose or fan sprinkler.
To test if your drip emitter is providing enough water you can use a soil probe. They are available to purchase or you can make your own using a metal rod from a home improvement store.
Before you dig, call 811. This free service can tell you the location of any buried utilities.
Prepare Your Garden Plot
Now that you’ve chosen a location, determined the garden layout, have a watering system or plan in place and have your tools you’re ready to prepare your garden plot.
Your soil is very important. This is where your seeds will get the nutrients they need to provide you with fresh vegetables, herbs and fruits.
In Phoenix, Arizona native soil is not really sufficient and should be mixed with compost, and/or gardening soil, at a minimum use only 20-50% native soil, less is better when it comes to the vegetable garden.
As a reminder, before you dig call 811 to identify where any buried utilities might be.
Grow Vegetables in Phoenix: Your Garden Plot
With my first vegetable garden we had to remove the sod, which wasn’t too fun. We rented a sod cutter from a home improvement center and it made the job a little easier. After the sod was taken out we then rented a rototiller and tilled up our new garden area. We then added compost and organic material and tilled once again. Our garden area was then ready for planting.
Our next garden endeavor was to create a raised garden bed out of cinder blocks. This one was easier because we started with a 10 by 4.5 foot area of bare dirt. To raise the garden we purchased about 30 blocks. It took 60 bags of a mixture of manure, compost, and gardening soil. Then we layered the different materials into the garden bed.
Before you start you’ll want some basic gardening tools including a standard shovel and spade. A spading fork resembles a small pitchfork. It is used to dig down into hard soil and break up the ground. A hoe is a useful gardening tool, but if you only have a small vegetable garden it is not necessary. A wheelbarrow and a good garden rake is not necessary, but they are helpful if you have a larger garden.
Which variety of seed or transplant should I choose?
One of the first things to do is identify your climate zone. In the world of gardening, Phoenix is referred to as the low subtropical desert. Understanding your gardening zone helps with the decision of when to plant and gives you an idea of what can grow here. In a few steps your garden will be ready.
Then you’ll want to decide do you start from seed or purchase starter plants?
The best advice to follow is to choose seed or transplant varieties that have a quick gestation times. Veggies that will produce within 60 days are the easiest to grow in Phoenix.
If you are starting from seeds help your plants get a head start and soak the seeds the night before planting. Soaking reduces the seed’s germination time.
Easy to Grow Vegetables in Phoenix Arizona
Most seeds can be planted between the months of November and March. See the planting guide for reference. Just remember that frosts can happen even in early February and your warm season veggies will have to be covered if you plant them outdoors before the last frost.
The sugar snap peas were planted around the same time and have flowers by January. In February we had our first Snap Pea of the season. The hummingbirds visit the flowers every day and like resting on the tomato cages.
When to Start Planting
Now that your gardening spot is prepared find out when to plant and how to care for them. You can do this!
Remember, gardening is a journey of continuous learning, so keep experimenting and trying new veggies. Happy gardening!
The ultimate success of a vegetable garden is determined by four major factors: soil, water, sun, and timing.