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How to Grow Tomatoes in Arizona – 10 Tips for Growing Tomatoes

How to grow tomatoes in Arizona - 10 tips for growing tomatoes #tomatoes #arizonagardening #howtogrowtomatoes The low desert of Arizona includes cities in and around Phoenix, including Glendale, Scottsdale, Paradise Valley, Mesa, Tempe, Chandler, Gilbert, Peoria, Apache Junction, Buckeye, Fountain Hills, Tolleson, Surprise, Sun City, Queen Creek, and Goodyear.

Learning how to grow tomatoes may feel overwhelming. Entire books have been written about growing tomatoes, but these 10 tips will fast-track you to tomato-growing success. 

The taste of homegrown tomatoes is the reason many people begin a garden. In the United States, it is said that more gardeners grow tomatoes than any other vegetable.

Wondering about how to grow tomatoes in Arizona, the low desert, and other hot climates? Keep reading; there is plenty of information for you too!

Low desert includes elevations below 3500 ft in the Southwest, such as the Phoenix and Tucson metro areas.


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10 Tips for How to Grow Tomatoes


Tip #1 for Growing Tomatoes: Choose a tomato variety suited for your tastebuds and climate

How to Grow Tomatoes in Arizona - 10 Tips for Growing Tomatoes The low desert of Arizona includes cities in and around Phoenix, including Glendale, Scottsdale, Paradise Valley, Mesa, Tempe, Chandler, Gilbert, Peoria, Apache Junction, Buckeye, Fountain Hills, Tolleson, Surprise, Sun City, Queen Creek, and Goodyear.

Decide which type of tomato you want to eat. Different types of tomatoes are suited for eating fresh, canning, making salsa, or cooking

Choose a type of tomato suited to your climate for the best chance of success. Because of the heat of Arizona summers, we have a short growing season. Look for plants with short (60-90) days to maturity. These are often types with small to medium fruit or Roma or paste varieties.

Tomato Varieties For Zone 9b (Low Desert AZ)

Varieties highly recommended for desert climates like Arizona include: Punta Banda, Celebrity, Pearson, Speckled Roman*, Black Krim*, Atomic Grape*, Sungold, Sweet 100, Yellow Pear, Canestrino*, and Cherokee Purple.

(* Local Master Gardener Carol Stuttard recommended varieties.)

Florida gardeners battle high heat and humidity. The Everglades tomato does well in those conditions.

Different climates have other considerations and growing conditions. Ask a local grower for varieties that do well in your area.

The low desert of Arizona includes cities in and around Phoenix, including Glendale, Scottsdale, Paradise Valley, Mesa, Tempe, Chandler, Gilbert, Peoria, Apache Junction, Buckeye, Fountain Hills, Tolleson, Surprise, Sun City, Queen Creek, and Goodyear.

Tip #2 for How to Grow Tomatoes: Plant tomatoes at the correct time

To give tomato plants the best chance for success, plant tomatoes right after the last spring frost date. This is usually around February 15th – March for the low desert of Arizona. For this planting, start seeds indoors from DecemberJanuary

The low desert of Arizona includes cities in and around Phoenix, including Glendale, Scottsdale, Paradise Valley, Mesa, Tempe, Chandler, Gilbert, Peoria, Apache Junction, Buckeye, Fountain Hills, Tolleson, Surprise, Sun City, Queen Creek, and Goodyear.

Once planted, if necessary, protect plants from cold nighttime temperatures. Plant tomatoes in the morning, so tomatoes have the day to settle in before cooler nighttime temperatures. 

There is a second (monsoon) planting window for planting tomatoes in Arizona’s low desert from July through September. For this planting, start seeds indoors from May – July. 

Tomato Planting Dates
Zone 9b (Low Desert AZ)

Once planted, protect plants from high daytime temperatures with a shade cloth. Plant tomatoes in the evening so tomatoes have a cooler evening to settle in before hot daytime temperatures. 

The low desert of Arizona includes cities in and around Phoenix, including Glendale, Scottsdale, Paradise Valley, Mesa, Tempe, Chandler, Gilbert, Peoria, Apache Junction, Buckeye, Fountain Hills, Tolleson, Surprise, Sun City, Queen Creek, and Goodyear.

Tomatoes grow best in temperatures of 70℉ to 90℉, with nighttime temperatures consistently above 55℉. In Arizona, you want tomatoes to flower and set fruit before it gets too hot. Once temperatures reach 90℉, tomato pollen is not viable. Fruit that has set will continue to mature, but new fruit will not set if pollen is not viable. 


Tip #3 for Growing Tomatoes: Plant tomatoes in the right location

  • The most important requirement for productive tomatoes is plenty of sunshine.
  • Give tomatoes full sun for the entire plant with adequate growing space around each plant for air circulation.
  • Allow 2 feet between each plant for healthy and productive plants.
  • Do not plant tomatoes in the same location year after year. Rotate the location to prevent the build-up of disease in the soil.  

Tip #4 for How to Grow Tomatoes: Prepare soil correctly

Tomatoes need soil rich in organic matter; make a habit of amending your soil with compost. Good drainage is important as an area with standing or puddling water invites disease. Prepare your soil correctly, and your plants will thank you. If you are growing tomatoes in raised beds, this article talks about the best soil for raised beds


Tip #5 for Growing Tomatoes: Plant tomato seedlings deeply

Planting deeply encourages a more extensive root system and a healthier plant.

  • Remove the bottom 2/3 of the leaves on the tomato transplant.
  • Dig a shallow trench or deep hole (depending on the depth of the planting bed) and plant transplant so that only the top leaves are above the ground.
  • Roots will grow along the entire stem of the plant.
  • Bear in mind that plants may appear to do nothing for a bit after planting the tomato- but they are growing roots.

Tip #6 for How to Grow Tomatoes: Mulch tomato plants well

Use compost, straw, leaves, or pine needles to reduce evaporation and insulate the soil from extreme hot and cold temperatures; soil will stay at a more even temperature. 

Mulching helps control weeds, and plants will not have to compete with weeds for water and nutrients. Most mulch ultimately becomes fertilizer as it decomposes into the soil around the plant. Learn more about how to mulch in this post.

How to Grow Tomatoes: Mulch tomato plants well


Tip #7 for Growing Tomatoes: Water tomato plants correctly

  • Water early in the day to prevent excessive evaporation.
  • It’s best to water at the soil level, so leaves do not get wet. Wet leaves encourage disease.
  • Water to a depth of at least 12 inches to encourage roots to grow deep in the soil to find nutrients and moisture. 
  • Water slowly and deeply.
  • Deep, extensive roots help plants withstand dry spells.
  • Water regularly as needed, but do not allow plants to become soggy as plant roots need oxygen. How often you water depends on your soil and the weather conditions. Water deeply each time you water and then let the top few inches dry out before watering again. During the hottest months of the summer, that might mean every day. During the winter, that often means every 7-10 days.

Tip #8 for How to Grow Tomatoes: Feed tomato plants

When planting, if your soil is low in phosphorus it’s important to provide a source of phosphorus (bone meal or rock phosphorus) and again as plants begin to bloom and produce fruit. A soil test can determine if your soil is low is phosphorus. Without proper fertilization, plants do not produce well and are prone to weeds (which invite pests and other diseases).

Once tomatoes set fruit feed them about once a month. Tomatoes do best with regular feeding from organic sources of fertilizer. I feed mine with a diluted fish emulsion/seaweed fertilizer.

How to Grow Tomatoes: Feed tomato plants

Tip #9 for Growing Tomatoes: Provide support for growing tomato plants

It’s important to encourage tomatoes to grow vertically.

Growing Tomatoes: Provide support for growing tomato plants
  • Growing tomatoes vertically keeps the plant upright, and prevents the stems from breaking from heavy fruit or wind.
  • Trellising tomatoes also keeps the leaves off the ground which helps reduce diseases.
  • Fruit is easier to harvest when it is off the ground as well. 
Growing Tomatoes: Provide support for growing tomato plants

Tip #10 for Growing Tomatoes: Provide shade for tomato plants in extreme climates like Arizona

Provide shade for tomato plants in extreme climates like Arizona
Provide shade for tomatoes in extreme heat

Your plants may need a little help to get through a long, hot summer in the low desert of Arizona.

  •  Shade can reduce the air temperature for tomatoes by several degrees, and it also extends the growing season.
  • Providing shade in desert climates helps reduce stress on tomato plants, and can prevent sunscald on ripening tomatoes.
  • Shaded tomato plants are more likely to survive the extreme heat of the desert, and may perform better when cooler temperatures return in the fall.
Provide shade for tomato plants in extreme climates like Arizona
Sunscald on tomatoes

How to grow a vegetable garden in Arizona #arizonagardening #arizonagarden #desertgardening #hotweathergarden #howtogarden

Want more information about gardening in Arizona? This blog post shares 7 tips for  how to grow a vegetable garden in Arizona


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If you found this post about how to grow tomatoes in Arizona helpful, please share it:


Michael

Sunday 31st of December 2023

Hi Angela, I did my first "after monsoon" tomatoes and they have never grown so well. Now I have large plants with lots of fruit, however none of it seems to be ripening. Is there some tricks to get them to ripen on the vine (before colder nights in Jan / Feb)? Should I leave the tomatoes on the plants or pick them and bring them in to ripen. Thank you.

Angela Judd

Monday 1st of January 2024

If it's going to freeze, bring them inside for sure. You can put them in a box or sack with an apple or banana to speed up them ripening.

Kelsey McAlister

Friday 8th of December 2023

My tomatoes are producing a ton yes simultaneously dying from the bottom up. The tops look beautiful and the bottoms are yellow and dead looking. Any thoughts? Thanks!

Angela Judd

Wednesday 13th of December 2023

Often happens with tomatoes - can be various diseases. Removed diseased leaves and enjoy the tomatoes! Be sure to plant in a new spot next year and dispose of any leaves or the plant in the garbage, not the compost.

Angela Anspach

Saturday 22nd of July 2023

Can I cut my tomatoes back completely and continue watering for a monsoon crop? The gold red cherry tomato, and an heirloom have finally shriveled leaves. They are still green and I do shield them from afternoon sun. If I cut all the way back will I get another crop?

Thank you !

Angela Judd

Wednesday 26th of July 2023

I wouldn't cut anything back until this major heatwave passes. Plants won't recover. You can try cutting them back once you begin to see new growth and we get a break in the weather.

Jennifer

Tuesday 18th of April 2023

Hi, Angela!

I have three tomato plants that are growing and two have gotten a blossom or two but no fruit is growing... is there something special I should know about pollination or do you think it might be something else? They appear to be healthy...

Mama

Tuesday 6th of June 2023

@Angela Judd, We are in a similar situation. Beautiful plants. A good 2-3 feet tall. Cute little flowers that drop. No fruit. Help???

Angela Judd

Tuesday 18th of April 2023

Hopefully soon! The weather has been a little wacky this year. You can tickle the blossoms to encourage fruit set.

Grecia

Tuesday 28th of March 2023

I'm a beginner and have found you to be extremely helpful, I'm located In Tucson and I just started my seeds 3/25/23, they are cherry tomatoes, did I start them too late?

Angela Judd

Tuesday 4th of April 2023

It's been a crazy year. It might be too late, it depends on how quickly it gets hot. You may want to look for transplants as well.