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You can grow a wide variety of vegetables throughout the year in Arizona, such as tomatoes in the summer and romaine lettuce for fall/winter. Follow this web link on How To Plant Vegetables In Arizona for additional information on various crops that grow in Arizona.
EnergySoil is a 100% Natural Organic plant growing medium made from coconut husks and it has many good qualities. Homemade compost is an option to consider. Here’s a link on how to build a raised garden box.
Native Seeds comes to mind as a great source for seed varieties that have been proven to perform in the Arizona and the desert southwest climate. They have a large farm in southern Arizona where they grow seeds for distribution and preservation. While not certified organic, they minimize chemical use.
If you’re a carbon footprint watcher, growing a portion of your food or buying from a local grower greatly reduces the amount of energy tied up in the food you consume. Buying locally also improves your local economy.
Life’s a Garden comes to mind as an experienced company that can provide a full range of garden design and installation services. Growing your own vegetables with captured rain water and homemade compost and you’ve got a recipe for sustainability.
ABOVE GROUND GARDENS – Q & AsExperiences from a garden in Phoenix, AZ – July 15, 2011
1. Raised or in-ground garden? Some say that raised gardens will get the roots too hot. I just installed a raised garden early this spring and have been enjoying a great bounty. The two tomato plants are just about spent after providing us with well over 200 vine ripened tomatoes! The Okra, Bell Peppers, Chile Peppers, Parsley and Basil are doing great! The carrots are finger size and should be perfect toward the fall. Through the spring we already enjoyed yellow, purple and green variety Green Beans, Sweet Peas, Cilantro, Pan Squash, Swiss Chard, Red Leaf and Butter Leaf Lettuce, etc. We are not going to plant pumpkins but are still considering a summer squash or different pepper varieties for this time of year.
2. How wide should it be? I would recommend an above ground planter, 4 feet wide, which is easy to reach across from each side. If it is raised it is much easier reach to tend to, plant, water, etc. My garden is 4′ wide by 22′ long and I almost wish I had a small break somewhere in the middle. Consider a break in the planter once in a while (maybe every 18 feet if you’re using 6 foot Cedar fencing (see item 4)) for ease of getting around, tending, passing each other, gathering around, and watering with the hose.
3. What about weed control? We installed the raised planter right over Bermuda grass and have not had one weed nor has the Bermuda grass grown because we started with a thick layer of newspaper, some cardboard, 8.5 x 11 papers, shredded paper, etc. any paper we could find, and a pile of leaves that I saved from the fall at the bottom of the planter before we filled it with garden mulch. We read this in a magazine and it was called a Lasagna Garden. We weren’t interested in the layering/composting aspect – we were only interested in the fact that it killed the grass that we laid the newspapers on top of.
4. What wood should be used? I did lots of online research and Cedar was the best choice because it is insect and rot resistant. Redwood performs about the same at about 5 times to cost. So we saved lots of money and went with the Cedar. Home Depot carries 4×4 raised planter kits made from Cedar – go figure. They are modular and can stack for desired height. At $35 per kit it was a bit pricey for our budget. We used cedar fencing laid on its side, end to end. Since the fencing is 6′ tall (or 6′ long), we had a wood stake every 6 feet and another in between to stabilize the sides. I used rust resistant deck screws to attach everything and it worked like a charm. The Cedar smells good to me also.
5. What about existing soil, weed poisons, termite poisoning, other existing soil poisoning? Using the raised planter with new mulch alleviated that concern. We used a mixture of Kellogg’s and Miracle Grow vegetable/flower garden mulch to fill the planter. The Kellogg’s cost less and had the same nutrients for flowers and vegetable gardens. I really wanted to use EcoScraps mulch made right here in Tempe, AZ. They sell it at some Ace Hardware stores and a few other retail places and it is healthier for you than mulch with manure. They use old donated vegetables from grocery stores and food banks and coffee grounds from coffee shops that would otherwise end up in the landfill. Diverting it from the landfill saves lots of greenhouse gasses from going into the atmosphere. The greenhouse reduction from using one cubic foot of EcoScraps mulch is the same as taking a car off the road for one month. Apparently there are more greenhouse gasses generated from our landfills that all the cars, however the cars get the bad wrap because they are what we actually see causing pollution every day.
6. Is the rainwater that falls off the roof OK to use? Even if you have downspouts adjacent to this planter, I would recommend getting an expert opinion before using the roof runoff. It could carry the roofing material if it is breaking down and other toxins with it. Hose/Soaker hose material can be questionable as well. I know there was a report about garden hoses about 10 years ago, the fact that they were not required to meet the health and safety requirements used for consuming food or water, and that a lot of hose manufacturers use hazardous chemicals in the plastic and rubber that leach out. Municipal water is probably the best bet, using stainless steel garden watering pails, but then again there are the fluoride and pharmaceutical concerns about our drinking water.
7. Width of path around the garden? If in a public setting, I would recommend a minimum of 36″ width to meet Federal Accessibility requirements for people in wheelchairs. Otherwise the width can be what you are comfortable with.
8. Insect control? We really didn’t have insect problems until about a month ago when we started getting ants. They were attacking the Okra and then the Tomatoes that were close to the soil. I really didn’t want to use toxic insect control so I did some research. I discovered Diatomaceous Earth which is a naturally occurring layer of fossilized algae “shell” remains. It is non toxic to humans and animals. The way it works is the fractured fossil shells have edges sharp enough to cut through the waxy exoskeleton of ants, cockroaches and other insects. Once it cuts through, the insects die of dehydration within a few hours.
9. Shade? Our garden gets morning shade from the house and the vegetable plants have done well with this. It gets sun from about 10:30 until 5:00 then evening shade. The Tomatoes started looking a little stressed about a month ago when we started to get real hot temperatures, so we installed some garden shade fabric over them on a frame and they really liked that.
I hope you find the above information somewhat useful and I wish you all the best!