A Guide to Gardening In Arizona.
Arizona mexicalli plant
2015 summer planning and planting
Just started my 2015 planting season, just cleared a few zones in the back yard for planting. I have a ton of strawberries to plant and asparagus! I have residual growing from tomatoes that i had thrown against a side wall, seems as though the efforts of smashing them in that area have paid off. There are about 5-8 tomato plants on that side of the yard and I think they will be my biggest producers this year. I have an eggplant that has not stopped growing and is basically a bush now. I'm pretty sure that if I keep it watered, It should yield 25-30 lbs of delicious buttery eggplant. I planted corn last year and it didn't seem to do as well as i had hoped. My plan this year is to plant cilantro and peppers, just to have ready to go ingredients for salsa! Updates coming soon!
My Experience with gardening small areas
As far as gardening in my smaller backyard, I have had some success with a few different styles of gardening and also some first hand experience with different gardening tools. I will touch base about.
An ironclad tool that you need in backyard gardening is pruning sheers for your plants. The easiest way for your plants to have trouble with disease and insects is portions of the plant touching the ground. Eliminating the highway from which these kinds of things ride in on. Not allowing any of your plants to touch the ground will help with almost all insects, and also it will keep rot away. After you trim your plant away from the ground, you can add support, and also surround the base of the plant with something that is difficult to be traversed. I usually start the plant with a 2 inch pvc pipe, if you waited too long, there are products out there that you can use to eliminate ground pests, wraps and things to go around the base of the plant.
People have emailed me about how to control pests, I have only a few techniques I use currently. a teaspoon of dish soap and a regular sized spray bottle filled with water does the trick for aphids, mites, anything small really, spray directly onto the plant until you get a nice sheen, 100% coverage is what you're looking for, but not soaking with it. This also works well with caterpillars too, they hate soap for some reason.
I can't stress enough that you must keep your plants from touching the ground, this is the best pest control out there.
Borax is a common component you use when you do your laundry, if you make an inch circle around the base of the plant, you can stop most terrestrial pests this way without adding any harsh chemicals to the ground.
Neem oil is the last item I use to combat pests, its all natural and works wonders. Lasts for days as well.
To combat your furry pests(cats, dogs, raccoons, deer, etc) just spray the ground and/or the fruit of the plant with mint oil and that usually does the trick!
Aquaponics Deep water culture
Hydroponics seems like the way to go if you have space in your garage, I bought a 16 gallon tub from Walmart for 4.95 and an air pump with an air stone from the fish section. After the Walmart run, all you need next is some net pots from eBay, and some clay hydroponics beads as well as some rock wool. This will allow you to grow with a 150 watt bulb about 3 feet above the plants, fill the Tub with water and add nutrient solution, (I use miracle grow but there are better ones out there) make sure to add the right amount of solution and place the air stone at the bottom of the tub. Then cut holes to match the size of your net pots in the lid of the tub and place them in the holes, add in a few pebbles of kilned clay, and then your rock wool with seed inside, then some more pebbles. Make sure the water in the tub reaches the bottom 1/4th of the Net pots, and wait 2-4 weeks for finished plants!
UPDATE: Its been many weeks and although I almost lost all the plants, I managed to save 90% of them. I ran into an issue of adding too much fertilizer and it caused some issues. But since then I've left the plants alone under my light and they are growing so fast!
Successful watering techniques!
Some of the garden work that I have done in my backyard is set for automatic watering, I have used many soaking hoses in the past, some that inflate due to the water pressure, some that are rubber with small holes. Other techniques I've used include using flex tube with drip fittings, PVC sprinkler systems dedicated to gardens. The best option that I have found, is to water every other day for 10 minutes using the rubber style soaker hose. These work great because they can be used on a gradient or hill.
Square foot planting
Planting per square foot is a big thing for us due to the size of our back yard and the amount of plants I like to have growing. I can almost sustain myself and the girlfriend off of what we have in our yard. Being in Arizona is a huge plus because we never go through a real winter. This usually ends up with consistent yields all year long, just a bit slower in the cooler months. I do a lot of terracing for my gardening, this allows me to make a 3D garden which encompasses more space for me to grow my favorites. Potted plants are a constant battle but a huge space saver, although they heat up during the summer, they also stay warmer during the winter. Usually I move them between two spots in my yard. One location in the sun for most of the day in the winter months and another in mostly shade during the summer. I have a Harbor freight greenhouse that I employ during the winter months for melons and corn. Things that require a lot of sun, and heat usually.
Plants that work well in Arizona
I've had a lot of luck with peas, peppers,corn, spinach, tomatoes, grapes, melons and any type of squash. I find they like the heat as long as the water is there. Tomatoes like full sun, same with peppers, melons and squash are 75% sun and spinach is more or less 50% sun. My grapes do well in 110 degree weather as long as they are watered every other day or every day. If corn is not planted in full sun, It will not get to its desired height. As far as tomatoes go, as long as you keep it off the ground from insects, they just require water, sun and the occasional crushed up calcium tablet.
Garden PhotosClick thumbnail to view full-size
How to deal with arizona heat
These are a few ways to battle the heat aspect of arizona and how to plant accordingly. Something neat that I set up in my back yard was my a/c unit has a run off for condensation from running most of the day, its enough to keep about four plants watered during the summer, the runoff is routed straight to the four plants through a pvc pipe and dispersed through a drip system. I also use sail shades in my backyard to keep the overall ambient temperature down. It really works, at least 10 degrees cooler in my back yard than the neighbors. Tested with a laser heat gun on a square foot basis.
Plants that grow best in arizona
What grows best in arizona
New garden added in the back yard!
I just finished tearing up an old tortoise enclosure to fill it with mulch and fertilizer. I watered for a few days to allow the fertilizer to seep into the ground below and allow a safe zone for new seeds. I made 4 rows of plants based on overall height. Sweet Corn in the back row along with Mexican Corn or also known as Maize. In the second row from the back I planted a variety of Tomato plants including a few large heirloom tomatoes. In the third row from the back I planted a row of various melons and squash( in hindsight this was a mistake). In the front row I planted various types of peas to climb over the top of the enclosure for sun in the late game.
After about a month I had significant growth and the only plants that didn't make it were the squash and melons. They require a larger area and a lot of sun which was not the case in my 7 ft by 4 ft enclosure. However I did manage to grow a beautiful squash from it all, which was delicious and I'm planting its offspring this winter.
The corn finished growing and allowed the tomatoes to take control, and surprisingly the peas have been extremely hardy through the whole summer, at this point they're basically established.