21 May Vegetable Gardening 101
Having a vegetable garden is a great way to grow your own fresh vegetables while improving the aesthetics of your landscape. In addition to this it is a great hobby and is a reported to have various psychological benefits (such as making us happier).
But very often people who are new to gardening overlook about one of the most important factors of gardening…..Seasons! This leads to them planting the wrong type of plant at the wrong time. To help solve this issue, one should refer to a Planting Calendar which shows the planting and harvest times for different plants. One can easily find one of these online, one that is highly popular for Phoenix is the Vegetable Planting Calendar by the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension. You can find it online at extension.arizona.edu/pubs/vegetable-planting-calendar-maricopa-county.
In addition to the seasons, there are various other factors that influence the success of a garden. Mentioned below are some that you need to keep in mind to have a successful
Sunlight – Map out your growing area based on the amount of sunlight it receives. This is important as some plants thrive with full sunlight while others don’t. Usually vegetable plants like around 6-8 hours of sunlight. It is easier to have shade than sunlight by just putting up a few shade cloths, while it very difficult to introduce sunlight into an already shaded area.
Size- If this is the beginning on your vegetable gardening journey it is recommended to start with a 4×4 or 6×4 foot raised bed or a similar sized patch on the ground. Local nurseries and home-improvement stores usually sell ready-made gardening beds, alternatively one can easily build one on their own using untreated wood. It is recommended to make them at least one foot high. One can also dig a garden patch in the ground and plant directly in the ground. This helps take advantage of the mineral-rich soil.
Soil- The soil in Phoenix is very rich in mineral but lacks organic matter. To solve this, it is necessary to mix the native soil with some compost. This can be purchased at local nurseries or home-improvement stores. It is recommended to water the soil and compost before mixing as this makes it easier. Soil here can very quickly lose the moisture it holds due to the temperature; hence it is recommended to mulch the top of your raised bed or garden patch. Mulch is a combination of leaves, bark and other plant matter. This will help improve soil moisture, soil fertility and prevent weed growth.
Water- Plants require sufficient water to thrive, watering must be done depending on the sunlight the area receives and the plant varieties. It is recommended to water at least one foot deep for vegetables, depth can be checked using a stick. Make sure to check for signs of underwatering (wilting with dry soil, slowed growth, exposed roots on soil surface) and overwatering (wilting with wet soil, brown wilting leaves, root rot) and change your watering schedule accordingly. Another solution might be to analyze the soil drainage (the rate of water percolation through the soil) and amend it accordingly.
Plant Selection- Plant selection must be done based on the seasons as we discussed earlier and the sunlight it requires. Other than the type of vegetable, it is also necessary to choose the variety of vegetable. For example, one tomato variety might bear fruit in 75 days while another might take 90 days. Make sure to read the days to harvest while purchasing the seeds.
Yield and Scale- Plant based on the expected yield that you will get from a plot. This should be done in conjunction with the growing periods. For example, you can plant some vegetables at different times to stagger the harvest dates to have a continual harvest.
Summer Months- Since we are entering the summer season, here are a few vegetables to plant in the following months.
June: Beans, Cantaloupe, Cilantro, Cucumber, Corn, Okra, Melons, Gourds, Southern Peas, Watermelon.
July: Basil, Beans, Corn, Cantaloupe, Cucumber, Cilantro, Melons, Squash, Southern Peas, Pumpkin.
August: Basil, Beans, Beets, Cucumber, Cilantro, Corn, Collards, Chinese Cabbage, Chards, Dill, Onions, Mustard, Lettuce, Kale, Kohlrabi, Radish, Rutabaga, Spinach, Turnip, Peas.
For starter plants, seeds, soils and more information, you can visit us at:
Agave Farms, 4300, N.Central Ave, Phoenix.