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Vegetable Gardening in Arizona

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

Vegetable gardening in Arizona can be challenging. Principles that work in other areas, timing guidelines on seed packets, and general zone requirements often don’t apply to gardening in the low desert of Arizona. 

Growing a successful vegetable garden in Arizona is certainly possible. However, it is important to understand that Arizona has a unique climate for gardening with distinct benefits and challenges.

Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links. See my disclosure policy for more information.

Some of the benefits of vegetable gardening in Arizona:

  • Abundant citrus – only 2 other states (Florida and California) grow citrus commercially. 
  • Ability to garden outdoors year-round
  • Abundant sunshine – necessary for all living things.

A few of the challenges of vegetable gardening in Arizona:

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

    • Extreme heat. A few vegetables (okraMalabar spinachArmenian cucumbers) tolerate the heat and continue producing. Some die, and others go into dormancy only to take off again when the humidity of late July or August sets in. 
    • Low humidity. Many desert-adapted plants such as cactus, succulents, and plants with waxy leaves are adapted to less humidity. However, most vegetables and garden plants need more moisture in the air to grow well in the low desert of Arizona. 
    • Native clay soil is great for desert-adapted plants and contains many minerals. However, it is alkaline and is low in organic matter. Most garden plants prefer slightly acidic soil and need the added nutrients organic matter provides. 
    • Caliche causes several problems including poor drainage.

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

7 principles for successful vegetable gardening in Arizona:

Growing a successful vegetable garden in Arizona is possible when you understand these 7 principles.

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

1. Choose the best location for your garden

Vegetable gardens need at least 6 hours of sun to grow and thrive. We have an abundance of sun, but the type of sunlight we get varies.

  • Morning sun is ideal for a vegetable garden; its rays are strong and cool. The harsh afternoon sun is harder on gardens in the summer.
  • Take a look around your yard at sunrise and notice where morning light first hits your garden, and then if you can, plant there! 
  • If your garden area gets afternoon sun, you will probably need to provide some shade for certain plants during the summer. 
  • Check sun exposure using Sun Seeker app (or similar). Allows you to see amount of sunlight each area receives. 
  • There should also be a water source nearby or within a hose distance.

Adding raised beds to create your gardenThis article shares 10 tips for designing raised bed gardens. How to grow a vegetable garden in Arizona #arizonagardening #arizonagarden #desertgardening #hotweathergarden #howtogarden

2. Use the best type of soil to plant vegetables in Arizona

It is possible to grow vegetables in the native soil; however, most native soil is best adapted to growing native plants, not garden vegetables. 

Because Arizona’s growing seasons are shorter, we ask a lot of the vegetables we grow – they need to sprout, grow, and produce during a short amount of time. 

For the best chance of success, it’s important to give plants what they need to thrive in desert conditions. A combination of compost, coconut coir or peat moss, and vermiculite added to raised beds is a simple and effective way to begin gardening right away. Arizona Worm Farm sells a raised bed mixture with these ingredients designed to work well here in the low desert. 

Continue adding compost and organic matter each season and the soil in your raised beds will improve each year.

This blog post shares more information about the best soil for raised beds. It’s important to have your soil tested. A soil test can determine the health of your soil. This is the soil test kit I use. It is very simple to use.

3. Plant vegetables at the right time in Arizona

Gardening in Arizona is different, not impossible. We have different seasons than most. Zone maps on the back of seed packets and other zone maps don’t usually work here. Instead of one long growing season, we have 3 shorter planting seasons: 

  1. Cool-season crops grow from around September to March; 
  2. Warm-season crops grow from about February through May; and 
  3. Monsoon planting begins with the increased rain and humidity of July or August. 

Use a research-based planting guide designed for the low desert to take the guesswork out of when to plant during each of these different seasons. Planting the right crop at the right time will increase the chance of success.Vegetable Planting Guide: A Visual Planting Guide for Low Desert Vegetables

Arizona Fruit Planting Guide_ A Visual Planting Guide for Low Desert Fruit

Wondering which other things to plant and what to do in your garden each month? Click on the monthly guide which includes a “to do” list and planting guide for each month. 

Arizona Garden in January#gardening #garden #arizonagarden #Januarygarden #gardeninginarizona #desertgarden Arizona Garden in January#gardening #garden #arizonagarden #Januarygarden #gardeninginarizona #desertgardenArizona Garden in February Arizona Vegetable Garden Checklist #arizonagarden #gardenchecklist #thismonthinthegarden #gardenArizona Garden in March#gardening #garden #arizonagarden #marchgarden #gardeninginarizona #desertgardenArizona Garden in April #arizonagardening #arizonagarden #aprilinthegardenArizona Garden in MayArizona Garden in JuneArizona Garden in JulyArizona Garden in AugustArizona Garden in SeptemberArizona Garden in October #gardening #garden #arizonagarden #octobergarden #gardeninginarizona #desertgardenArizona Garden in November #gardening #garden #arizonagarden #novembergarden #gardeninginarizona #desertgardenArizona Garden in December#gardening #garden #arizonagarden #decembergarden #gardeninginarizona #desertgarden

4. Select the appropriate varieties of vegetables when gardening in Arizona

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

  • Choose short-season crops. When you have a choice between two crops and one has shorter “days to harvest”, go with the one that is shorter. The low desert of Arizona has several growing seasons, but the seasons are shorter and crops have less time to produce. Smaller varieties of tomatoes and melons often outperform their larger counterparts. 
  • Choose plants adapted to our growing conditions in Arizona.  Native Seeds Search offers arid-adapted seed varieties that tolerate the heat and drought of an Arizona summer better than varieties better suited to other regions. I grow Chimayo melons and Hopi yellow watermelons from Native Seeds Search each year. 

The key to successful gardening during the heat of summer is knowing what and when to plant. The climate in the low desert of Arizona and other hot areas will burn up many vegetables commonly thought of as summer vegetables.

5. Take advantage of microclimates in your yard

Some parts of the yard will be warmer or cooler than others. Use those areas to your advantage by growing plants whose requirements match up to the specific microclimate available. 

Notice in your yard which areas receive the most sun and shade during different seasons of the year. Learn the sun requirements and heat tolerance of different plants. Consider adding shade parts of the garden that need it during the hottest times of the year. Take advantage of the shade provided by larger plants to interplant different crops.How to grow a vegetable garden in Arizona #arizonagardening #arizonagarden #desertgardening #hotweathergarden #howtogarden

6. Water your Arizona vegetable garden correctly

Vegetables and fruits do not produce well if they are stressed. Problems in the garden can often be traced back to watering – not enough, too much, or inconsistent water. Plants become stressed and are more prone to diseases and insects. 

General principles for watering your vegetable garden in Arizona include: 

  • Spend time in your garden each day. You will notice the watering needs of your plants and be alerted to issues with your watering system.
  • Pay attention to the weather – Plants require more water when it is dry, windy, and in the summer heat. During the summer in hot areas like Arizona, raised-bed gardens often need watering every day. Other times of the year, the raised beds may only need to be watered 1-2 times per week. Adjust the frequency of the timer for seasonal conditions.
  • Water deep enough to moisten the plant’s entire root system each time you water. Adjust the frequency of watering, not the duration of watering. 
  • Water in the morning. Wilted leaves at midday don’t necessarily mean a plant needs water; always test soil a couple of inches deep to see if soil is dry before giving droopy plants more water. They will probably recover once the sun goes down.
  • Water the soil – not the leaves of plants. This saves water as well as prevents many plant diseases. 

Want to learn more about watering? This article shares more information about the best way to water raised-bed gardens.How to grow a vegetable garden in Arizona #arizonagardening #arizonagarden #desertgardening #hotweathergarden #howtogarden

7. Mulch garden each season (especially in the summer)

Add a 3-inch layer of organic mulch on top of the soil around your vegetables. Mulching helps an Arizona vegetable garden in several ways:

  • Mulching helps prevent weeds which can harbor pests and diseases, and compete for limited resources of nutrients, light, and water.
  • A thick layer of mulch helps protect roots from extremes in temperatures.
  • Mulching helps preserve moisture. 

Read this article to learn more about how to mulch your garden. How to grow a vegetable garden in Arizona #arizonagardening #arizonagarden #desertgardening #hotweathergarden #howtogarden

If you enjoyed this post about vegetable gardening in Arizona, please share it:



Thursday 29th of April 2021

What mulch do you recommend for adding above soil in AZ? How often do I need to add Mulch? at what temp in AZ do you recommend watering every day?

Angela Judd

Thursday 29th of April 2021

I really like using compost or "composted mulch". I add mulch usually twice a year after I plant and the plants have grown a bit. How much you water really depends on your soil. If your soil holds on to moisture, you may not need to. Water beds deeply each time you water and then water again when the top inch or two dries out. It seems like once temps are consistently over 100°F and nighttime temps are hot is when I have to water more. Hope that helps.


Tuesday 13th of April 2021

Where do you buy your mulch?

Angela Judd

Tuesday 13th of April 2021

Arizona Worm Farm

Priscilla .f.

Saturday 10th of April 2021

What percentage of shade cloth would be best for Arizona heat? I have a 4x4 raised garden bed i want to set up. I do want to get the shade up first before i plant.

Angela Judd

Sunday 11th of April 2021

Generally 40-50 percent is good for most vegetables. Here is a blog post with more detailed information:

Candice L Gimbel

Monday 22nd of June 2020

Trying to reach Angela with a garden program and need for advice. Pls conact me or provide your email address

Angela Judd

Monday 22nd of June 2020

Hi, you can send an email to


Saturday 26th of October 2019

Great post. Even though I am in Australia, our summer conditions seem very similar to yours. The Wheatbelt area of Western Australia has very hot summers, with strong Easterly winds with temperatures regular over 40C. In the Autumn and Winter we sometimes get rain, but not enough, although it still isn't cold enough during the day to wear a coat most days. We get frost at night though which can cause problems for tender plants.

Can you let me know how I can follow you, other than bookmarking your site?


Angela Judd

Sunday 27th of October 2019

Thanks. I've often thought that our climates are similar just opposite times of the year! You can also subscribe to my monthly newsletter (I send out tips for the month and well as a summary of what I've added to the blog that month. Another option is to follow me on Facebook or Instagram. When I have a new post, I share it there as well. I hope that helps and thank you for following. Happy planting!