Before you start a garden in Arizona, remember that your soil is mostly sand. Because sand has almost no nutrients, it will have to be amended with decaying organic matter. Compost is the answer to most of your soil problems in Arizona. Digging in or adding 2 inches of compost on top of the soil will result in more water in the soil and less watering, another highly important element to consider in desert gardening. Grow veggies in raised beds or containers for greater control over soil quality and wind protection.
Hot and Sweet Peppers
Peppers prefer the cooler seasons in Arizona, spring and fall. Plant them in early March from nursery stock (if you can find it) or sprout seeds indoors in the winter to transplant in early March. Or, continue to grow them in containers. Feed peppers plenty of food—water-soluble fertilizer or organic compost—because they are hungry plants.
Eggplant, according to Phoenix Tropicals, grows very well in Arizona, but it is a heavy feeder and needs a lot of water. Grow eggplant in a raised bed to take advantage of the shade that foliage provides for the soil. This will help your soil conserve water. Plant eggplant in March, so its growing season is long enough to avoid winter's killing frosts.
Melons do well in the Arizona heat but they are also a favorite of whiteflies, which descend en masse in early June. If they survive the onslaught, they will be delicious. Plant them as early as possible in spring to get as much growth as possible before the flies descend.
Rosemary, oregano and dill are extremely easy to grow in desert conditions. Rosemary requires very little water and loves the sun. Grow it in pots or as a bushy groundcover as part of the landscape. Phoenix Tropicals categorizes dill as a weed in Arizona: It will grow everywhere, even if you aren't all that interested in it. Oregano needs some light shade and weekly watering to thrive. Of course, many herbs will grow very well indoors in pots, on the windowsill or in a sunny room.
While tomatoes are everyone's favorite, they are also the favorite of nearly every garden pest that exists in Arizona. The irony is that Arizona is the tomato-production capital of the United States, but almost all of those tomatoes are grown hydroponically; lack of soil eliminates pests. If you can grow them in containers, the risk of insect infestation and disease is greatly reduced. Remember, any plant grown for its fruit requires at least five hours of sun each day. The Maricopa County Extension Office recommends the addition of reflective material around container plants: aluminum foil, white-painted surfaces or marble chips.
Based in Fort Collins, Colo., Dannah Swift has been writing since 2009. She writes about green living, careers and the home garden. Her writing has appeared on various websites. She holds a Master of Arts in English literature from the University of New Hampshire and is currently pursuing a certificate in paralegal studies.