The Q&A Archives: Soil Preparation in AZ Desert

Question: I live in Yuma where the temp. reaches 110 by end of May.
My soil is nothing but sand without the beach. What types of additives should I put in the soil to grow vegetables?
What types of vegetables grow and survive in sand, wind, and high temperatures?

Answer: Did you know that the area around Yuma is one of the biggest producers of produce for the rest of the country? Yup, it's true! Almost every type of vegetable will grow there, but you need to know when to plant them. There are two growing seasons, a cool and a warm season, when different crops thrive. Late June-August are not great planting times, although crops are growing. I suggest preparing your soil by adding lots of compost and just get it ready for the cool planting season, which starts around late September or so with plants growing through April/May. The warm season planting starts in Feb/March and plants go until the heat, or some go through the summer. A rule of thumb for determing when to plant is that cool season crops are those which you eat the stems, leaves, and roots, such as greens, carrots, beets, onions, etc. Warm season crops are those which you eat the fruits, such as tomatoes, melons, peppers, etc.

To improve your soil, incorporate plenty of compost. In sandy soils, compost improves soil fertility, water and nutrient retention. Add a 4-6 inch layer of compost and incorporate it about 12-18 inches deep. You can use manure if it is well-aged (6 months) or you won't be planting until it has lost it's heat and decomposed. Each planting season, add more compost. You may want to incorporate a balanced fertilizer (e.g., 10-10-10) or add organic fertilizers such as fish emulsion, bone meal, and seaweed/kelp. Follow package instructions.

After planting, add a 1-2 inch layer of mulch. Mulch is great to help retain soil moisture, reduce weeds, and as it breaks down it provides nutrients to the soil. Any organic matter can be used as mulch. Try compost, bark, wood chips, straw, or pine needles. As it breaks down, dig it into your soil and add more.

Good luck with your soil prep! If you have other questions, please send another email to the database.

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