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Desert Gardening: Edible Garden Tour

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Lowe’s gardening expert Scott Calhoun shows what to plant, harvest, and fertilize in low-desert gardens as summer begins.

A week before Memorial Day this corn grew high in a Tucson garden.
Though not yet summer, cilantro alreasy is going to seed.

By Scott Calhoun

In May things happen fast in a desert veggie garden. Gardening axioms from other climates don’t usually apply; for example the old saying about corn: “knee-high by the Fourth of July.” In the desert that might be “shoulder-high by Memorial Day.” In the photo above, taken a week before Memorial Day, the corn in this Tucson garden is pushing 6 feet tall and sending up tassels. Because May is a transition month, I’ll share some pointers about what should be coming out, coming in, and getting fertilized and harvested in late spring and early summer.

Red lettuce already is bolting, and summer hasn’t started yet.

Coming out

As you can see from the photos here, cool-season growers, such as cilantro and lettuce, don’t like temps in the high 90s. They are bolting, or on their way to bolting. Before the real summer heat sets in, you still can harvest whatever is left of the crop. Do it now before it gets bitter. Other veggies to harvest now—and then remove—include broccoli, kale, Swiss chard, and cabbage.

Gypsy sweet peppers are close to harvest time.

Coming in

Depending on when you planted them, squash, peppers, and tomatoes should be almost ready to pick toward the end of May. It is not too late to plant more of these, but you may need to provide some partial shade (particularly for tomatoes) to keep them bearing fruit. Cherry tomatoes tend to do better in the heat than beefsteak types.

Use young tender zucchini as fast as you can!

It is almost the time of year when you need to bust out those recipes for zucchini muffins, bread, cakes, bookends, and whatever else you use them for. But right now you can harvest the tender baby zucchini, and they are delicious and not woody at all. Use them as fast as you can!

Young oranges are right for fertilizing now.

Fruit trees

Many fruit trees are putting out fruit now, and you should water and fertilize them as temperatures heat up. Memorial Day is a traditional citrus tree fertilization time, and you can do that in May or early June. Use a citrus and avocado fertilizer. Your citrus fruits, like the Arizona sweet orange variety shown right, will be about golf-ball-size at this time of year. You also can fertilize figs and pomegranates. Pomegranates set fruit now, but the fruit won’t be ripe until late summer or early fall. However, the first crop of figs will be ready in early June.


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