The Q&A Archives: Heat Tolerant Vegetables for the Low Desert

Question: Do you have any vegetable heat tolerant hybrid varieties suitable for a 60-70 day season in the AZ low desert? My tomato, pepper, cucumber, zucchini, bean blossoms drop off just after the plant approaches maturity. Moderated drip irrigation and mulch help, but once the air temperature pushes 90-100 F., I'm pretty much done for another 4-5 months.

Answer: First of all, when are you planting? Frequently, low-desert gardeners plant too late in the spring. You may already know the following info, but since it's a common problem, I'll include it.

There are two distinct growing seasons in the low desert with different annuals thriving in each season. There's a cool season from approximately the end of September through April. Annuals can be installed from late September to February. Some gardeners prefer to wait until October, as cooler temperatures also help kill off whitefly populations which can quickly decimate plants.

The warm season starts with planting in mid to late February. Some plants will make it through the summer's heat; others will end their growth when the heat arrives in May or June. It's not uncommon for these plants to stop producing at that point. Pollen isn't viable much over 90 degrees, so the variety doesn't really make much difference. Choosing those that mature in as few days as possible is your best bet. I'd also suggest starting your seeds indoors and having them ready to transplant out by mid-February. Protect from possible frosts through about mid-March. A good reference book that contains planting calendars for the low desert is called "Desert Gardening for Beginners: How to Grow Vegetables, Flowers and Herbs in an Arid Climate." ISBN 0-9651987-2-3.

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