Gardening is a relaxing hobby. 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.
The ultimate success of a vegetable garden is determined by four major factors: soil, water, sun, and timing. 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.
Creating a successful veggie garden in Phoenix is an enjoyable and nutritious way to get fresh food.
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.
9 Steps to Create a Vegetable Garden
- Choose a garden location
- Determine watering
- Call 811 to identify where any buried utilities might be
- If not already set-up, set up a watering system.
- Purchase basic gardening tools
- Plan the garden layout
- Prepare your soil and garden bed
- Pick out your seeds or transplants
- Have fun planting!
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 need 6-8 hours of sun each day. The afternoon sun is pretty intense in Phoenix, so they will also need shade in the afternoon. Plants thrive in a garden that receives morning sun and afternoon shade.
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?
For our vegetable garden we picked a spot in the north west corner of our yard that receives a good balance of sun and shade and took advantage of the existing block wall as a partial barrier. We then planted trees that provide filtered shade in the summer to protect our vegetables.
Watering 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.
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.
Determine the 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. We’ve had many vegetable gardens over the years, and the vegetable garden at our last house was much larger than our current vegetable garden.
In our current house, I started out smaller with a raised garden bed of 4.5 feet wide and 10 feet long and raised 18 inches high. At this width, you can still easily lean over and tend to the plants without entering the garden area. Over the years I have added four more raised beds. Three of the beds are 4 x 2 x 4 feet and the smaller herb garden box is 2 x 2 x 2′.
Grow Vegetables in Phoenix: Your Garden Plot
With my first vegetable garden we had to remove the sod, which wasn’t too fun but if you rent a sod cutter it isn’t too bad. After the sod was taken out we then rented a rototiller (you can do this at most any home improvement center or hardware store) 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.
It was a little bit easier with our current garden. 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.
Preparing the Soil
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.
Our 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.
We chose to create a raised garden bed in order to have better control over the soil conditions and our existing garden bed has very little native soil. The raised garden bed has a depth of 18″ – a mixture of organic material and gardening soil.
Raised Garden System: Grow Vegetables in Phoenix Arizona
I highly recommend using the raised garden system in Phoenix. You have more control over your soil and growing conditions for the plants. This is what has worked for us.
Which variety of seed or transplant should I choose?
The best advice in choosing seeds or choosing transplants is to choose varieties that have 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
Easy to grow crops include
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.
Green beans are an easy crop to grown in Phoenix gardens. I usually plant the seeds in November and cover plants if there is a frost warning. You can also start seeds indoors and wait to plant outside until after threats of frost have passed. This year we put tomato cages around them to keep them off the ground and give us more space in the veggie garden. Small gardens don’t leave much room for watermelons, cucumbers, or squash, but you can get a couple of each plants in.
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.