#205 Warm Weather Vegetable Gardening – Garden To Table

Growing Warm Weather Favorites

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Growing delicious vegetables in a hot, dry climate is achievable with a little preparation and planning. This guide provides helpful tips for desert southwest gardeners in Southern Nevada, Arizona, and Southern Utah.

Essential Steps for Success:

Conquering Clay and Caliche: Raised beds are the answer! They offer improved drainage, and better soil quality, and allow customization for specific plants. Fill your beds with Dr. Q’s Vegetable and Herb Planting Mix, specifically formulated for direct planting of tender vegetable starters or seeds. This mix provides essential nutrients, improved aeration, and optimal moisture retention. You can also use a 50/50 mix of native soil and organic material like Dr. Q’s Paydirt™ Planting Mix.

Location, Location, Location: Choose a well-ventilated spot with good air circulation. Avoid excessively windy areas or south/west-facing walls that radiate heat.

Feed Your Plants Right: Use the right fertilizer for your chosen vegetables. Leafy greens need more nitrogen while fruiting vegetables like peppers and tomatoes require less nitrogen and more phosphorus and potassium. Our Star Nursery associates can help you select the perfect fertilizer.

Amending Existing Beds: Add fresh organic material and Dr. Q’s® Organic Star Dust Starter Fertilizer (as per package instructions) before replanting.

Mulch Magic: Suppress weeds, conserve water, and cool plant roots with a generous layer of surface mulch like shredded cedar bark, which also helps repel insects.

Natural Pest Control: Most pests can be controlled by hand-picking or using a water spray. For persistent pests like caterpillars and hornworms, consider using Monterey BT Worm Killer® containing bacillus thuringensis (BT). Always be conservative when applying any chemicals and follow label directions carefully.

With raised beds, Dr. Q’s Vegetable and Herb Planting Mix, and these essential steps, you’ll be well on your way to a successful and bountiful desert vegetable garden!

Planting by Season:

  • First & Last Frost: Be mindful of frost dates. In Southern Nevada, Arizona, and Southern Utah, the first frost is typically around mid-November, and the last frost occurs in early to mid-March. These dates can vary, so be flexible and prepared to protect young plants if necessary.
  • Starting Seedlings: Plan ahead if you intend to start your own seedlings instead of buying transplants. Factor in a 6-10 week lead time depending on the variety. For instance, tomatoes started indoors in mid-January would be ready for transplanting in late March.

Finding More Information:

  • Vegetable Guides: For more detailed information, pick up our Star Note #200, Cool Weather Vegetable Gardening, available at StarNursery.com.
  • Start Small & Succeed: If you’re new to vegetable gardening, start small and build on your successes.

Warm-Season Vegetables for Your Desert Garden

The following is a list of popular warm-season vegetables that thrive in our desert climate. These frost-tender varieties require spring and summer warmth to produce and are typically available at Star Nursery stores as early as March. Cool-season vegetables like broccoli and cabbage can be planted from seed in the garden during August and September, with transplants available at Star Nursery in October.

Perennial Favorites:

  • Artichokes (March to May): Grown from transplants. This tough, attractive plant offers tasty buds for harvest when tight and plump. The flowers add beauty to dried arrangements. Use a hose to remove aphids.
  • Asparagus (November to January-roots; March to April-seeds): Seeds can produce strong plants in one season, but it takes 2-3 years for them to yield significant quantities. Asparagus thrives in rich soil with regular watering. Cut stems to the ground when plants turn brown in winter.

Favorite Annual Vegetables:

Beans (March to July): Planted from seed or transplants, be mindful that they are salt-sensitive, so flush the soil regularly. Chinese long beans (asparagus beans) are the most heat-tolerant variety.

Corn (March 15, July 15): Best planted on these two dates or in between. If planting after late July, choose short or mid-season varieties (65 to 80 days). Plant in blocks for better pollination, as row planting can be less effective here.

Cucumber (March to August): Available as seeds or transplants. Armenian (burpless) cucumbers are known for their heat tolerance and resistance to bitterness. Grow on a fence, tying the fruit for support and to prevent curling. Plant bush varieties to save space.

Eggplant (March to July): Grown from transplants. Oriental (Japanese) and white eggplants perform better in the summer heat than traditional varieties. These plants benefit from some shade and require monitoring for spider mites.

Lettuce—leaf (All year): Grown from seed or transplants. Leaf lettuce like Black Seeded Simpson can be grown all year. Plant every 2 weeks for a good, regular crop. Best with afternoon summer shade.

Melons (April to July): Grown from seed or transplants. Give plenty of water as melons develop. Cantaloupes and other musk-type melons don’t transplant well and do best if started from seed. Watermelons are good either way. Overhead sprinkling is not recommended.

Okra (April to May): Grown from seed. Pick small pods every day to keep from getting tough and woody.

Peppers (March to July): Begin with transplants or seeds. Make sure the soil is warm before planting; In early spring, use black plastic to warm it up if necessary. To aid in setting fruit, some gardeners recommend pinching off any fruit already on transplants before planting. Plant deep, give regular water and good drainage.

Radish (All year): Grown from seed. Gets pithy and hot fast, so plant small amounts every two weeks for a regular supply.

Spinach, New Zealand (April to August): Grown from seed. Similar to regular spinach, but more heat tolerant. Tolerates salty soils.

Squash (March to July): Grown from transplants or seeds. It’s important to water beneath leaves. That prevents mildew and allows you to use Sevin Dust to control squash bugs. Popular varieties are Yellow Crookneck, Zucchini, and Spaghetti.

Tomatoes (Early March to May; August): Grown from transplants. The smaller-fruited varieties like Sweet 100, Red Cherry, Patio, Yellow Pear, and Roma tolerate the heat better. Beefsteaks are generally disappointing. Heartland and Heatwave are larger-fruited, heat-tolerant varieties. Other varieties do not generally set fruit in July and August here. Cut back in late August for a fall crop from summer plants. Plant deep and water thoroughly but infrequently until fruit forms. Some gardeners recommend using a shade cloth that is 30-50% UV-blocking to cool the plant and improve humidity.