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Gardening in Arizona

Eat local, fresh food grown right in your backyard.

STEP #1: Getting Started
Choose your garden type and determine the best way to garden for your time and budget. Depending on your living situation, there are a number of ways to go about gardening. If you don’t have access to your own garden space, a community garden could be the perfect option for you! Other gardeners are a wealth of information and support.

Find a community garden near you here.

 
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In-Ground

This style of garden uses the ground soil to grow plants. Depending on your soil quality, you may need to amend it with compost and organic matter. This can often be the most economical choice if you have the space for it.

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Raised Beds

If you don’t have soil but you have the space, this is a good choice. The bed is raised above the ground surface, usually done by filling wood frames with better quality soil. This style provides a barrier for pests and storm runoff.

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Container

Container gardens are good for areas with less space and can be done indoor and out. Any kind of container can be used, whether it is a normal terra cotta pot, a tire, an old glass bottle or even a shoe.

 

STEP #2: Supplies
The initial startup of a garden is when you’re going to need to make the biggest investment. Depending on the style of garden you choose to create, there will be a few staple items.

  • Tools, containers, compost, and soil are all found at garden supply stores.

  • Seeds, the most important and necessary ingredient, can be found at seed exchanges.

  • To find transplants & seedlings, (and usually seeds, tools, and soil) a nursery will be the best bet.

As you start to prepare your garden, don’t hesitate to ask the experts! Check out our events page to find gardening classes and educational resources across Arizona.


STEP #3: Planting and Harvesting
Understand your environment! Not everyone is a gardening professional their first time around, and having a calendar can be extremely helpful for ensuring optimal growth in your garden.

First determine which hardiness zone your garden is located in, using the map at the right. Depending on your region, the dates may vary for planting and harvesting in your garden.


 

STEP #4: Companion Planting
Don’t worry about looks! Strategically placing your plants doesn’t have to be purely aesthetic, by mindfully planting you can ensure optimal results with pest control, pollination, beneficial insects, maximizing available space, and crop productivity. Use the companion planting chart chart below to pick which plants will work well together in your garden.

Flowers offer a myriad of benefits for a garden, including pops of color and unique culinary flavors! Check out Maricopa County Cooperative Extension’s guide to planting flowers in the low desert.

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STEP #5: Composting
Composting is your friend. Creating and using compost is one of the best ways to give your soil all of the nutrients it needs to nourish your plants. Check out these Arizona composting companies who will pick up your food scraps and return with fresh soil!

Start your own compost pile:

  1. Find a spot for the pile, one that provides good sun

  2. Add the right ingredients: 50/50 nitrogen-carbon ratio, meaning half greens half browns, avoid cooked produce as well as meat and dairy

  3. Wait, and continue to add greens/browns to pile while turning for aeration, process will take 8-12 months depending on pile size

 
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Using a Worm Bin (Vermicompost):

Worm castings provide beneficial microorganisms to soil, as well as increasing the amount of water providing better water-holding content of soil. Also, this process takes a lot less time and labor than normal composting.

  1. Get yourself a bin: it can be glass, plastic or wooden, i.e. reusing an old fish tank or dresser drawer, make sure it is clean by rinsing out, if wooden line with plastic

  2. Prepare the worm bedding: cut or tear up newspaper (avoid color inks) into small strips and make damp but not soaked, add into bin until ¾ full, sprinkle soil on top

  3. Add in the worms: redworms should be in equal ratio to the amount of waste put in, as they can eat their weight per day

  4. Add in food waste: scraps like peels, rinds, and cores are fine, don’t put lots of citrus in, avoid cooked foods (butter/oil attracts pests), no meat or dairy for same reason, the smaller the pieces the faster worms digest

  5. Cover it up: adding a sheet of newspaper to the top keeps in the necessary moisture, while covering the bin with a lid (either not completely or with holes drilled) to maintain oxygen

 

Safety Tips

Arizona, or most of it, has quite the reputation for scorching weather. Because of this, it is of vital importance that proper measures are taken to maintain safety while gardening. The Center for Disease Control has made a list of tips to be as safe as possible, available here.


Arizona School Gardens

School gardens are increasingly being used as hands-on tools to help students learn many core educational concepts. School gardens introduce students to the joys of growing, cooking, and eating their own food through an integration of hands-on, garden-based curriculum into classroom learning. Students have the opportunity to work in the vegetable beds and on the cutting boards to awaken their senses and open their minds, both to their core academic subjects and to the world around them. To date, over 200 of Arizona’s schools reported having an active school garden on campus. See the official Arizona Department of Education list below: