There is nothing more satisfying than having to grow your food, be it for the taste or nutrition the produce gives you. Also, you will have the satisfaction that you are eating food that is free from chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Tomatoes seem to the favorite among kitchen gardeners. I love the sight of juicy red tomatoes hanging from my plants. These veggies are also powerhouses of potassium, Vitamin E, and B and other essential nutrients. Do you also want to know how to grow tomatoes in Arizona? Wondering where to start or if it would grow well in the arid climate of Arizona? Well, you have stumbled upon the right article that will guide ho how to start growing tomatoes for your use.
Make some of the tastiest and crunchiest salads, add homegrown tomatoes to your sandwiches, try making spicy and tangy tomato sauces, etc. the list is endless. Whether you like it or not, this fruit (botanically) considered as a vegetable when it comes to cooking has a permanent place in our kitchens. So, let us learn more about how you can grow these juicy, tangy fruits in your backyard or kitchen garden. These plants do not require much place to grow. Hence you could also try growing them in big pots.
What Will I Need to Grow Tomatoes?
The Planting Procedure
Now that you are all set with the supplies, let’s get started. Here we go with those 11 tips you should keep in mind if you are growing tomatoes in and around Arizona.
Tip # 1 – Find out from a local grower about the best varieties of the vegetable that grows well in hot climates
Choose a variety that grows well in the local climatic conditions, so you get the best yield. You could also choose the variations based on cooking and eating requirements. Due to the hot climatic conditions in Arizona, we have a shorter growing period. You can choose a variety that has a maturity time of 60 to 90 days. Varieties such as Cherokee Purple, Pearson, Celebrity, and Punta Banda are the best ones to grow well in hot climates.
Tip #2 – Place your tomato plants at the right location
These juicy fruits need a lot of sunlight and proper spacing between each plant to ensure adequate air circulation. Do not place the plants too close to each other; maintain a distance of at least 2 feet between each plant. Make sure you do not plant them at the same place year after year. It might lead to building up of disease in the soil.
You will need to rotate the location every growing season for healthy produce. This is a hack every kitchen gardener should know that the soil has to also get its nutrients replaced to give a good yield. So you can grow some legumes in that place to give back the soil the nutrients that were used up by the tomato plants.
Tip #3 – Prepare a good soil for tomatoes
Tomatoes require a soil that is not only well-trained but also rich in nutrients. These plants can thrive well on loamy soil that is a mix of sand, silt, and clay. It should also be rich in organic matter, which can be done by adding compost to the soil. If you want to start from scratch, you can consider performing a soil test to identify the pH levels, nutritional deficiencies. It will be beneficial to know what extra should be added to the soil to make it more suitable for the tomatoes to grow well.
Tip # 4 – Plant the tomato seedlings deep into the soil
When you transfer the seedlings from the grow trays to the soil, keep in mind that you will have to plant the seedlings deep into the soil. It helps the seedling to develop an extensive root system and, therefore, will give a healthier plant. Keep the top leaves intact, and you can remove the rest before placing them in the soil.
Dig a deep hole and put them in such a way that only the top leaves are above the ground. This will help the plants grow roots along its entire stem. Once you have planted them, you might have the habit of checking on them every day; please bear in mind that you will not notice any visible growth for a few days as the plants are busy developing its root system.
Tip # 5 – Plant them at the right time
To better the chances of success, plant your tomato seedling at the right time, which is during February; plant them immediately after the last frost in spring. For areas around Arizona that do not experience freezing temperatures, you can plant them earlier. Consider starting the seedlings at least 5 to 7 weeks before the transplant. The idea is to let the soil get warm before you plant them on to the ground.
Tip # 6 – Add a right amount of mulch
Adding mulch to the soil is a right way of keeping the moisture in the soil intact in scorching temperatures. This helps in reducing water evaporation. It also acts as a natural insulator against extreme heat or cold weather conditions. You could use pine needles or straw as mulch as this will eventually decompose in the soil, acting as a natural fertilizer. It will also help in controlling weeds so that the plant will not have to compete with the weeds for water and nutrition.
Tip # 7 – Watering at the right time
You can water the plants early in the day to avoid excessive evaporation. Water your tomato plants regularly to a depth of 6 to 8 inches, so the roots grow deep into the soil. The extensive root system will help the plants withstand any dry periods. Also, remember to water them at the soil level as the wet leaves can encourage diseases in plants. You should also make sure that you do not allow water to stagnate, as soggy soil can deprive the plant of oxygen.
Tip # 8 – Feed Your tomato plants with organic fertilizers
Tomato plants love a good supply of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium from organic sources. You will need to feed them with phosphorous at the time of planting; consider a second serving at the time when the plants begin to bloom and are ready to produce fruits. Lack of adequate fertilization will result in poor yield and will also encourage weed growth and pest infestations. Fertilize your tomato plants every month. Do this during the cooler part of the day, and remember to water the plant after you have added the fertilizer.
Tip # 9 – Support your growing plant with stakes
Allow your plants to grow vertically to keep the plant upright and reduce instances of stem breakage due to the weight of the heavy fruit or wind by supporting it with sticks about 6 feet long and 2 inches wide. Thrust them into the soil (one foot deep) about 4 to 6 inches away from the plant. You can consider making the markings before you drive them into the soil so that you get the depth right. You will also have to attach strings to the stick at every 10 inches to tie up the plant as it grows. You could also use the tomato cages available in the market to save you from the hassles of making those support systems.
Tip # 10 – Give your tomato plant some shade as well
It is essential to give your tomato plant the shade it requires to help it through the long and hot summers of the desert climate in Arizona. Providing shade will help reduce the temperature by several degrees. You could also look to extend the growing season by following this hack. Adequate shading will help in preventing sunscald on the tomatoes that are beginning to ripe. Tomato plants that grow inadequate shade can survive the high temperatures and will also adjust well to the colder temperature as the fall sets in. You can allow about 6 hours of sunlight and then cover the area with a cloth.
Tip # 11 – Consider pruning your tomato plants
I have come across this situation more often, the tomato plant grows well but does not seem to produce any flowers or fruits. It is due to the extra branches that drain all the energy and nutrients which are intended for producing flowers and fruits. Pruning will help to channelize the energy and nutrient distribution towards the flowering and fruiting process. You will be able to identify these sucker branches between two fully grown branches. You can simply remove this by hand. As the plant grows bigger, you can also consider removing those branches that do not seem to be producing flowers.
I guess that is a lot of information and I hope they come handy when you start your tomato garden. Like I said earlier, you will love to see your hard work bear fruit in the form of juicy red tomatoes, so go that extra mile and choose the right soil, organic manure to make your gardening experience a fruitful one.
Here I give you a quick recap of the key takeaway points
Now that you have all the information required to get started, create your bio-degradable materials such as eggshells as seed starter cups. You can simply place them in the soil directly at the time of transplant. Our journey does not end here; please do share your tomato success stories to make our article more informative and useful to other gardening enthusiasts. Should you have any more questions about tomato growing in Arizona, do drop us your questions in the comments section of this article. I hope you enjoyed the article in its entirety, share the pictures of your bountiful produce, and we will be honored.