Growing Summer Vegetables - May 11, 2005
Jeff Schalau, County Director, Associate Agent, Agriculture & Natural Resources
Arizona Cooperative Extension, Yavapai County

The Verde Valley has one of the best climates in the state for growing summer vegetable crops. Your garden area should be in full sun. However, you can be successful in areas that get 6 hours of direct sun or more. Amend the soil with copious quantities of organic matter (up to 4”), phosphorus fertilizer, and soil sulfur if you are in a limestone area. Till these in to a depth of 8-12”, rake smooth, irrigate, allow to settle and dry out for a few days, then plant seed or seedlings of the summer vegetable crops you really like. Remember to irrigate and periodically apply nitrogen fertilizer.

Beans are best grown from seed. Pole beans produce best and have the best flavor. ‘Kentucky Wonder’ is a tried and true variety. Bush beans are less work because they do not require trellising, but are often inferior in flavor and production. ‘Contender’ is one of the best varieties of bush beans.

Cucumbers are best planted from seed and use less garden space if trellised or grown on a fence. Japanese climbing varieties are superior in flavor. Keep them well irrigated as stress can make the skin bitter.

Eggplant is very heat tolerant. Large, European varieties (i.e. Black Beauty) can have bitter skin. These should only be harvested when black and glossy. Japanese varieties (i.e. Ichiban) do not get bitter skin.

Melons varieties are numerous, so plant varieties that are not readily available in stores. They need lots of space. Remember to roll the vines. This is done by picking up the vine and placing it back down across the crown of the plant after 2-3 fruit have been set on that vine. We are not sure how it works, but farmers have done it for years.

Peppers are well suited to our area. I prefer growing Anaheim types (Sandia, Big Jim) that are roasted for green chile. Three or four jalapeño plants will produce enough to make lots of salsa. Bell peppers need to have enough foliage to shade fruit thereby preventing sunburn. You can get a jump on the growing season by planting them from nursery (pony) packs.

Pumpkins also need lots of space. If you have children, large field varieties are fun to grow for jack-o-lanterns. Pie pumpkins are sweeter and tastier.

Squash are easy to grow, come in many varieties, and very prolific. Summer squash are harvested when the fruit is immature. They should be shiny and waxy to the touch. Winter squash are allowed to mature until the skin hardens and color develops. Mature winter squash can be stored for long periods.

Sweet corn is easy to grow but requires periodic nitrogen fertilization during the growing season. Plant in 3-4 row block to ensure adequate pollination. Super sweet varieties require isolation (at least 500 feet is recommended) from standard varieties to maintain quality. Plant only one variety in small garden spaces.

If you grow more than you can eat or preserve, then consider selling your surplus at one of the Farmer’s Markets. Alternately, if you are not a gardener, go to a Farmer’s Market to buy fresh, local produce. Listed below is some information about the Farmer’s Markets that I am aware of in the Verde Valley.

The Verde Valley Farmer’s Market is held in Camp Verde at the corner of Main St and Hollamon St. every Saturdays between June 18 to October 8 from 8 AM –noon (for more information call: 928-567-0535 ext 135).

The Cottonwood Farmer’s Market is held in Old Town (Main St. in the Historic District) every Thursday from late June 16 to October 6 from 5:30 PM to dark (for more information call: 928-634-9468).

The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension has publications and information on gardening and pest management. If you have other gardening questions, call the Master Gardener line in the Cottonwood office at 646-9113 ext. 14 or E-mail us at and be sure to include your address and phone number. Find past Backyard Gardener columns or submit column ideas at the Backyard Gardener web site:

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Arizona Cooperative Extension
Yavapai County
840 Rodeo Dr. #C
Prescott, AZ 86305
(928) 445-6590
Last Updated: May 5, 2005
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