Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southwestern Deserts
January, 2013
Regional Report

Share |

Sow seeds of root crops, such as these carrots, directly into the garden.

When to Sow Vegetables in Desert Gardens

"Timing is everything." We've probably all uttered that phrase at least once, and it holds especially true for gardening. Knowing when to sow seeds -- either directly into the soil outdoors or indoors for a jumpstart on the season -- makes the difference between an abundant harvest or a disappointing one.

Sowing Outdoors
Low desert gardeners experience two growing seasons, with different plants thriving in each. The cool-season garden is in full swing right now, extending from about September through April and even May, depending on local conditions. After extreme summer heat abates, start cool-season sowing outdoors, usually in late September/early October, and continue through November; this lets plants establish vigorous root systems before cool temperatures arrive. Although seeds may be slower to germinate later in winter, making successive sowings outdoors through February will give you ongoing harvests.

Gardening seasons overlap. In the midst of cool-season bounty, it's time to begin sowing indoors to produce transplants for the upcoming warm season, which extends from about May to September.

Warm-season planting outdoors generally starts after the last frost date in your area, which is mid- to late March in the low desert, with progressively later dates as elevation rises. In the low desert, if you protect from late frosts, you can transplant your seedlings as early as mid-February and continue seed sowing into July. However, planting in the midst of summer is problematic because of the extreme heat and excessive water use. So the sooner you sow or transplant after your frost date, the better.

Sowing Indoors
For both cool and warm season plantings, sow seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before transplanting outside in your area. This allows time for development, without seedlings becoming spindly, leggy, and weak. Sow seeds indoors of plants that take longer to mature in the cool season (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage) or that must mature before summer heat arrives and pollen is no longer viable to set fruit (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants). Leafy greens can be started either indoors or outdoors, but germinate and grow quickly when direct sown in the garden. Sow root crops directly into the garden, as they do not transplant well.

Cool- Season Vegetables

  • Peas
  • Cabbage family (bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale)
  • Lettuces and all types of leafy greens (collards, endive, mustard, spinach)
  • Root crops (beets, carrots, kohlrabi, onions, parsnips, radishes, rutabagas, turnips)

Warm-Season Vegetables
  • Beans
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Melons
  • Okra
  • Peppers
  • Pumpkin
  • Squash
  • Sweet Corn
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Tomatoes

Care to share your gardening thoughts, insights, triumphs, or disappointments with your fellow gardening enthusiasts? Join the lively discussions on our FaceBook page and receive free daily tips!


Today's site banner is by dirtdorphins and is called "prickly pads"