By Ric Coggins
If you have followed the Master Gardener Monthly articles, you may have noticed a recurring theme of “timing,” as this is a primary key to successful gardening in the Sonoran Desert. Though the triple-digit temperatures will be with us for a while yet, it is time to begin planting your amazing Arizona winter garden.
If you have never gardened in Arizona, the term “winter garden” may sound like an oxymoron. In those states with regular seasons, this is a spring garden. In our climate zone, however, we have learned how to plant “spring” crops in an upside down and backward version of planting into the frost, rather than waiting for the last frost and planting into the warm weather.
For our winter garden purposes, planting dates are decided by plotting backward from an anticipated first frost date the number of days to harvest (located on the seed package). Fortunately, the heavy lifting of these dates has already been graphed and plotted on the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension Maricopa County Garden Planting Calendar AZ1005, which you can google readily or, if you prefer a laminated copy, purchase from the Maricopa County Cooperative Extension office in Phoenix. Many of the plants on the Winter Garden list can actually take a full frost without reacting.
Here’s what “fun” you can be planting now and into the cool desert winter weather:
- Beets – Now through March 15
- Bok Choy – Now through February 28
- Broccoli – Seeds and Transplants now through January 31
- Brussel Sprouts – Seeds and Transplants now through November 30
- Cabbage and Chinese Cabbage – Seeds and Transplants now through January 31
- Carrots – Now through April 30
- Cauliflower – Seeds and Transplants now through January 31
- Celery – Seeds and Transplants now through December 31
- Chards – Seeds and Transplants now through February 15
- Collard Greens – Now through February 28
- Endive – Now through January 31
- Garlic – Plant cloves in October only
- Kale – Now through December 31
- Kohlrabi – Seeds and Transplants now through February 15
- Head Lettuce – Seeds and Transplants now through February 15
- Leaf Lettuce – Seeds and Transplants now through February 28
- Leek – Now through October 15
- Mustard Greens – Now through February 28
- Onions Bulbs from Seed – October and November
- Onions Bulbs from Sets – December through February 15
- Green Onions – Now through April 30
- Parsnips – Now through November 30
- Peas – Now through February 28
- Radishes – Now through April 30
- Rutabagas – Now through January 31
- Spinach – Now through February 28
- Turnips – Now through February 28
Please note that the above is the general Winter Garden highlights of what and when you can plant. For the harvest times of the varieties you wish to plant, please be sure to view the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension Maricopa County Garden Planting Calendar AZ1005.
With the sun and the temperatures in more moderate ranges, your winter garden requires minimal watering effort, and the summer weeds are dormant for the most part. It is also simply the most wonderful time of the year to be outside on your balcony, patio or acreage. Think of all the wonderful organic produce you can pluck fresh every day!
Ric Coggins is a University of Arizona Master Gardener (Maricopa County) who grew up on a one-acre garden tended to by his father, who was a regular contributor to organic gardening and farming magazines. Ric continues his father’s “green” traditions, owning and operating The Fool on the Hill Farm, a one-acre organic garden homestead in Mesa.
Find more green thumb articles at greenlivingaz.com/greenthumb