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{Featured Instagrammer} "ArizonaGardener", Arizona - Zone 9B

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How did you become a gardener and how long have you been growing your own food? It’s in my blood. My grandparents had a large garden in Indiana. We visited them a few times, and time spent in their garden is one of my favorite memories. We also had a large garden in Idaho growing up.
I’ve tried to garden in other places we have lived (Utah, Nevada, California) with little success. When we moved to Arizona 7 years ago I finally had room for a garden.  I took Master Gardening courses and certified as a Master Gardener. Volunteering with other gardeners in the community has been a great learning experience. 
Are there any challenges you have had to face growing in Arizona's hot climate? 
Mistakes I’ve made:
  • I’ve used incorrect planting calendars. For gardening in Arizona, timing is essential.
  • I didn’t take advantage of cooler season gardening, when its actually fun to be outside.
  • I’ve planted things in the summer and then left on vacation. Pests and the heat wreck havoc on an unattended garden.

How have you used your climate to its full advantage when gardening? I enjoy year round gardening and can eat something out of my garden nearly every day of the year.  Gardens can be at their most productive in winter. Broccoli, spinach, kale, brussels sprouts, lettuces, peas.... and so much more. 

At the end of the cooler season I like interplanting melons, cucumbers and beans with spinach, broccoli and kale. The cooler season vegetables will be gone when the warmer season veggies begin needing more room. 

Learn to appreciate what can grow here and don’t get stuck on what can’t. For example, citrus is so easy to grow!!! Almost effortless compared to other fruit trees.

Any tips or suggestions for those who live in warmer zones? Find a reliable planting guide for your area. Use correct information from local sources (like county extension offices).  Pay attention to your weather... if it is unseasonably warm or cool, adapt the planting guide to current conditions. Grow varieties adapted to the heat of summer. Use short season varieties that will flower, fruit and ripen before the deadly heat of summer. 

Develop some sort of automatic watering system, especially for the summer season. If you forget to water even one day, all your hard work can die. Drip systems are the most effective and are easily installed to a hose and battery-powered timer. Mulch to prevent vegetables from drying out. 

Compost!!!! Learning how to do this has made all the difference in my garden. Good soil grows good plants. It is worth all the time and trouble to feed your soil as well as your plants. 

Take advantage of “microclimates” in your yard. If you have an area that gets more afternoon shade or is a little cooler, some plantings may thrive there that would die in other places in your garden. 

Keep a gardening notebook. I use a simple composition book. Make notes about when and where you plant. Note what worked and what didn’t. The labels from “Seeds Now” seed bags peel off and are easily added to your notebook.

Follow @ArizonaGardener on Instagram! 

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