by Blake Herzog
Pinal County home gardeners, like the county’s agricultural sector, are most active in winter and spring when they have beautiful, not-too-warm weather to work with.
Likewise, many of its backyard vegetable growers scale way back on their hobby during the warmest months of the year and just worry about keeping their top few layers of garden dust from blowing away.
But there are some heat-loving home crops you can plant, even here in the depths of the Sonoran. It just takes a little know-how about what to plant when and where and not overwatering or underwatering.
Intimidated yet? Don’t be.
Most non-drought tolerant plants need six to eight hours of sunshine a day. Hitting that number here isn’t the problem; it’s how to cut it off at eight. So, select a shaded corner of your yard or use a shade cloth or awning to protect your most vulnerable plants.
Water needs will depend on temperatures, sunlight, and the kind of vegetable plants you select, but a good average is 2 inches per week, best delivered by a drip system or soaker hose.
Here are some examples of warm-season produce that can thrive in your yard throughout the summer:
- Armenian cucumbers —This is a vine crop that can be planted in the desert from the end of February through the start of July.
- Asparagus beans — Also called “yardlong beans,” this is another long and skinny crop from vines. Seeds can be planted from March through the beginning of July
- Malabar spinach — Plantable from March through May, this is another vine crop, one that loves full sun and warm but moist soil. Most often used in Asian cuisine, it’s a stellar addition to salads, stir-fries, and soups.
- Sweet potato — Plant transplants or slips (rooted sprouts) from March through June, and with attention and the right amount of luck you’ll have green leaves in your garden all summer before a late fall harvest.