When to plant vegetables in an Arizona garden - Tucson Local Media: Fall Home & Garden

When to plant vegetables in an Arizona garden

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Posted: Wednesday, September 11, 2013 4:00 am

Many move to Arizona to enjoy the warm weather, especially given how many days per year the sun is shining.

However, it’s not so easy to plant flower or vegetable gardens in the Southern Arizona desert without some guidance from the experts.

The University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has become one of those helpful resources, and planting vegetable gardens is much easier with technical assistance.

According to the UA program, vegetables differ in climatic requirements, and knowing when is a good time to plant the large variety that is capable of growing here can be tough.

While some vegetables can withstand cool and even freezing weather, others need much warmer conditions to germinate and produce food.

Vegetables are placed in two distinct categories when it comes to planting in Arizona - cool-season crops and warm-season crops.

Cool-season crops

Some cool-season planting includes beet, broccoli, cabbage, carrot, lettuce,  onion, pea, potato, radish, spinach and turnip.

These are hardy, frost tolerant plants. They can easily be planted in the fall, winter or early spring. For the best results, it is recommended that they have time to mature during cooler periods rather than in the heat of the summer.

Warm-season crops

Warm-season crops include beans, cucumber, eggplant, melons, pepper, pumpkin,  squash, sweet corn, sweet potato and tomato.

These vegetables do not tolerate frost  and need warm temperatures to set and properly mature  fruit.

However, high temperatures reduce quality  and cause flower abortion.

In Arizona, gardening occurs from almost sea level to more than 7,000 feet. Experts agree that two problem areas exist in the Arizona desert, including the hot summer at the lowest elevations and the cold winter at the highest elevations.

At lower elevations up to 3,000 feet, two main planting periods are suggested - early spring for warm-season vegetables and late summer to winter for cool-season vegetables.

In the higher elevations ranging between 3,000 and 6,000 feet, there is one main cropping period, which means it is suggested that planting be  done during the spring and early summer.

It is noted, however, that these elevations in Central and Southern Arizona, an early fall planting of cool season vegetables is usually productive.

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