You have probably wondered, "What should I plant next?" Clearly, "for everything there is a season," but other factors affecting crops you grow include climate, soil composition, and general geography. Some plants will thrive in areas during specific times that will fail at others. Arizona has a wide range of climates, easily identified at the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone website. You will find a map of the United States and can click on Arizona to enlarge. Areas like Flagstaff have an average minimum temperature of -10 to -5 degrees Fahrenheit, with some areas closer to Mt. Humphreys finding their average ranges between -15 to -10 degrees Fahrenheit. These numbers may seem arbitrary, but different plants have specific requirements related to climate. The region you're in will determine when the best time to plant your seeds is for a specific crop. For this article, we will consider Arizona regions where most Arizonans reside, such as Phoenix and the greater valley. These areas fall in the regions of 8a to 9b on the USDA Plant Hardiness Map.
The figure above displays the proper times to plant a wide variety of different vegetables for maximum efficiency. It indicates when the gardener can start a plant's life cycle and if it's best to plant a seed or transplant. Some vegetables can be planted repeatedly throughout the year, such as asparagus, which the best time to plant is from mid-January to late May. This list was created by researchers at the University of Arizona, who built this timeline by analyzing environmental factors in Arizona throughout the year. These included a range of potential pests, the climate during those months, and the specific season. Improper climate can put "tremendous stress" on growing plants. It is recommended that their timelines are narrowly adhered to. Furthermore, the researchers underline the importance of picking the proper strains of vegetable plant:
- The plant should mature at a fast rate to avoid the extreme temperatures in summer and winter seasons. Ideally, the plant should live a full life cycle within one season. The best times for growing plant is in the fall and the spring. Harvests are likely occurring at the beginning or near the middle of summer or winter.
- The plant should match your expectations for taste, texture, color, and yield. It is important to understand the amount of vegetable material you can harvest from a single plant's life cycle. It would help if you chose something that you prefer to eat.
- Local gardeners should recommend the plant. There is no better resource than a neighbor with a passion for gardening or a master gardener at your service. If you are lucky enough to find yourself in this rare type of Arizonan, ask many questions, and consider taking notes! The University of Arizona has a Master Gardener program, which may be beneficial to you.
- The plant should adapt to climate and soils. It is very likely that if you purchase your plant seeds or saplings in Arizona, these strains of the plant will be adapted to living and thriving in this environment. However, problems may arise if you are purchasing from elsewhere or from an online source. It is important to choose plants that have adaptations to the climate and soil type you are planting in.
- Finally, the plant should be disease and pest resistant. There are some common diseases and pests that exist in Arizona environments. It will make your job as a gardener much easier if you purchase plants with a built-in defense system against some of these nuisances. Plants and seed packages will be marked with specific labeling to indicate what ailment that they are resistant to. For example, a labeled "F" means resistant to Fusarium wilt disease.
The most important aspect of growing in Arizona is knowing when to plant a given vegetable. Using this chart should help to take some of the guesswork out of when it is time to start growing! What will you plant next?