Plant Cool-Weather Veggies

Bonnie Nowicki

Growing your own vegetables can be a truly rewarding experience. This article targets “in-ground” veggie planting using healthy, store-bought starter plants. First, decide how large an area you want to devote to the garden. Next, decide which cool-weather veggies you and your family eat and who will be doing the work of planting, watering, etc. Here in the low desert, cool-season crops can be planted from late summer through winter. They include most of the leaf and root crops: beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, lettuce, onions, peas, potatoes, radishes, spinach, and turnips. May I suggest you pick two or three veggies if you just want to give growing them a try?

Arizona vegetable gardening poses unique challenges. To reduce our heavy soil compaction, extra loosening of the soil is necessary to at least 16 inches deep, enough to support the root system. Vegetables grow best in a level area with loose, well-drained soil high in organic matter, well-aged compost, and six hours or more of sun per day. Also, incorporating fertilizer helps decrease the pH of our alkaline soil. If you use a soil mix with fertilizer added, then your plants will have enough nutrients for eight to 10 weeks. The soil should be wet to a depth of 12 inches each time you water and not watered again until the top few inches begin to dry out. While growing, vegetable crops need about an inch of water per week.

My plant choices of carrots and onions can be grouped together, because their fertilizer requirements are less than other veggies, and their plant spacing is similar—two to four inches apart. Whatever veggie plants you choose, consider your hard work a real accomplishment as you enjoy the process of watching their growth and your contribution to healthy eating. Happy gardening!

Attention Military Veterans: The University of Arizona Pima County Cooperative Extension, Master Gardeners in Green Valley, will be providing research-based horticultural practices and information to veterans wanting to garden with other veterans in prepared raised container beds at our location, 530 E. Whitehouse Canyon Road. This opportunity is called Operation New Leaf. Sign up now to start a crop in February 2024. There is no cost to you, so take advantage of this unique learning experience. Call 520-621-1100 or email [email protected] to reserve your raised bed.