Is there anyone out there who has grown heirloom tomatoes in the Phoenix area? I'm wanting to start some from seed for the fall (first time) and am looking for strategies to make it a successful adventure! Any ideas will help.
Yes. There's been an active discussion about growing in the desert. I'm trying to raise a fall crop right now. I started early but my season (Mojave) ends a little earlier than most of Arizona. My fall crop is only Cherokee Purples but I am trying them in several different ways. Some in containers, some under shade cover, some growing between the current large plants. They grew normally through most of June, but I'm just getting my first major heatwave. I'm curious to see how 12" very young plants handle it. I water them by hand individually every morning. This weekend I suspect I will water them two or three times a day. The mature plants have been getting watered about every third day, but this heat will probably make that more frequent.
The link below is the longest discussion on topic that I've seen. Good luck.
Here is a link that might be useful: Desert Planting Strategy
I planted them in those expanding peat pots, and from there they went into the dirt when they were about 6 inches high. The monsoon season is a good time to set out plants. We may suffer in the humidity, but plants love it.
Reliable water is the most important factor.
Mine are in unimproved desert dirt, with a sprinkling of soil sulfur and a whole lot of shredded palo verde branches for mulch. It has a drip irrigation system, getting 20 minutes of watering 3x daily. I dug holes big enough for the roots, no tilling or deep-digging. (lazy!)
They are on the east side of the wall, so they get afternoon shade. However, two surplus plants that I stuck into a full sun bed are thriving too.
The ones in the elevated "planter" (my full compost bin) are in the light shade of a mesquite tree ... a bit rangier than the others but setting lots of fruit. they have escaped over the wall into the neighbor's yard.
1 - Don't plant red and yellow tomatoes of the same size and shape in the same bed. I frequently mistake an unripe red cherry for a ripe yellow cherry - pucker!
2 - Plant them further apart than the recommended distance so you can tell which plant is which. If they like it, they will get huge.
3 - Plant them where you can get to all sides of the plant. Although they are 5 feet from the wall, that mass of tomatoes is sprawling all over the place.
4 - buy the BIGGEST tomato cages you can find. Each of my plants quickly outgrew their original cage. So they sprawl.
Here is a link that might be useful: Tomatoes on Flickr
Thanks MojaveBob & LazyGardens. It seems you've both already transplanted your tomato plants? I've just started my seeds yesterday, so I'm looking at transplanting sometime in August. Which should work given it'll be monsoon season.
I'm planning on putting my raised beds on the west side of my house by some jacaranda trees, so they'll get some shade during the hot season. But I'm wondering if that might not work during the cooler weather. Any ideas?
I'm a complete novice to all this! I do have some Cherry & Yellow Pear tomatoes growing in pots right now and they're filled with fruit, but nothing is ripe yet. I'm looking forward to them ripening!
I discussed this somewhat in your other post and since you only have those two varieties right now this suggestion likely won't help but keep it in mind for future reference.
Using rooted cuttings (clones) from existing plants is a much better and faster way to get plants for fall planting at the proper times. There are many discussions here on how to root cuttings that a search will pull up for you to review. Only takes about 2 weeks and you have a plant ready to go to the garden.
If you have friends with plants perhaps you could bum some cuttings from them for this fall?
AZ_chef ... You'll never know until you try them.
The jacarandas will also provide a bit of frost protection. If you can keep the plants alive through a couple of frosts, you will have a head start next spring.