The Q&A Archives: Growing Tomatoes

Question: My wife and I live in Mesa, Arizona. Needless to say, the climate here is just about opposite from most areas. Our summers here get into the upper 90's and lower 100's quite regularly. I would like very much to be able to grow tomatoes and sweet bell type peppers. We both love them raw as well as mixed in with salads. Any information you could help us with would be appreciated. Regards. Ron and Anita Pederson

Answer: It's true that peppers and tomatoes are heat loving, but only within limits! According to George Brookbank's book, "Desert Gardening," you should be setting your pepper plants out between Feb 1 - March 15, and tomato plants between Jan 1 - March 15. Of course, they will grow best on improved soil that is high in organic matter. If you can make or purchase compost to add to your soil, it will hold more water and nutrients for your plants. Another option is to grow just a few of these plants in self-watering pots and baby them to get maximum yields. Also. try varieties that do well in the heat such as 'Heatwave' tomato and 'California Wonder' pepper. There is an excellent Master Gardener network in Arizona - I spoke with a couple of themin the past year. Your extension service can hook you up with them. They are experienced local gardeners whose wish is to help others enjoy gardening in that harsh climate. Here's the ph# for the extension office: 470-8086.

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