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What’s the “community” in Community Gardens of Tucson (CGT)?

A community is defined as a group of people who share something in common. Community involves people who are alike in some way, who feel some sense of belonging, share a culture, have an interpersonal connection and have shared norms, rules, and standards regarding behavior. This is exactly what CGT’s community gardens are – a living community.

CGT’s mission and all activities and projects are guided by six intrinsic values which define our culture, and inspire our work.

Everyone is welcome — We commit to community gardening that is diverse, equitable, inclusive, and accessible to all people regardless, yet inclusive of race, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, family status, or ability. We are equally committed to doing everything we can to help expose and eliminate bias, discrimination, and intolerance in our gardens.

Better together — We create shared gardening experiences that bring enjoyment, friendships, and a greater sense of community.

Improving food resilience — We empower Tucsonans and their families to increase access to healthy food by growing and producing food together.

Always learning — We share, learn about, support, and grow with one another: this is the heart of community gardening.

Sustaining our environment — We use natural methods that help protect and preserve our environment and benefit ecosystems through organic gardening practices, creating pollinator habitats, and conserving water.

Generation to generation — We create a space for sharing knowledge, cultures, and traditions between generations of gardeners.

Who can join a CGT garden?

Everyone is welcome — We commit to community gardening that is diverse, equitable, inclusive, and accessible to all people regardless, yet inclusive of race, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, family status, or ability. We are equally committed to doing everything we can to help expose and eliminate bias, discrimination, and intolerance in our gardens.

We do have a limited number of space at each garden. If a garden is full, you can ask to be placed on the waiting list for that location.

How do I start gardening at a Community Garden?
  1. Find your garden! Check out our list of Garden Locations to find a garden near you. Then email to confirm plots are available or be put on a wait list.
  2. Meet your Site Coordinator! We’ll connect you to the garden’s Site Coordinator who can give you a tour and let you know what plots are available.
  3. Ready! Once you’ve decided to garden for the season your Site Coordinator will assign you a plot and review the garden rules and expectations with you. You’ll review the online forms below that gives us the information that we need to ensure you’ll be off to a good start. If you have any trouble with these online forms, please call Admin at 520-795-8823 and we can do them over the phone.


New Gardener Application – please fill out this online form which helps us track any needs or accommodations so that we can stay in communication and support your gardening.


Guidelines and Policies  – this is a pdf of the paper form that you reviewed (or will review soon) with your Site Coordinator. This outlines the rules and expectations so that everyone is safe and comfortable in the garden.

4) Process your Payment! Please pay your plot fee quickly and securely here.


And you’re good to go! We’re excited to garden with you! Remember, please be in touch with your Site Coordinator if you need any assistance. Plots that are not planted or not maintained with no communication with Site Coordinators will be reassigned after 30 days.

Is there a charge for a plot in a community garden in Tucson?

The current plot fee rate is $22/month. These fees will be reassessed every 12 months to ensure that they cover the cost of water, materials and supplies and other operational expenses. CGT will provide advance notice to gardeners of any changes made to the plot fee rate. Renewal payments are made bi-annually in conjunction with the planting seasons: October 1st and April 1st.

How many plots can I have?

Individuals may occupy up to two garden plots in a single garden and up to six garden plots across all of CGT’s 18 community gardens.

What’s the policy for gardens that are full and have a waiting list?

We do have a limited number of space at each garden. If a garden is full, you can ask to be placed on the waiting list for that location.

In a CGT garden does everyone help grow and harvest from all of the plots?
  • In our gardens you grow your own plants in your rented space, and you harvest what you have grown. Gardeners must not take food, plants, or materials from other gardeners’ plots unless they have been given permission to do so by those gardeners or through the Site Coordinator.
  • Gardeners are encouraged to share their surplus produce and plants with others. Arrangements to do so can be made by CGT in partnership with other local nonprofits (e.g., Iskashitaa, Tucson Food Share, Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona).
What tools do I need to buy to start gardening with CGT?

None! Once you have signed up at a CGT garden you’ll be given the combination to the garden shed and have access to all the tools you will need. That way you can walk or ride your bike to the garden. You are responsible for any soil amendments or compost that you want to use. Just bring bags to take home the veggies that you have grown!

How do I keep up my garden if I’m away?

CGT uses an automatic drip irrigation system to water your garden, so the plants will be watered even if you are not able to go to the garden. If you’re going to be gone for a long time, you should find someone to care for your garden and pull weeds, etc. as well as help with common garden tasks.

What do I do if I have more vegetables than I can eat?

Gardeners are encouraged to share their surplus produce and plants with others. Arrangements to do so can be made by CGT in partnership with other local nonprofits (e.g., Iskashitaa, Tucson Food Share, Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona)

What vegetables can we grow in Tucson?

Just about anything!!! We’re lucky in Tucson to be able to have gardens all year long. We actually have several growing seasons: winter (Nov-February), spring (Feb-April), dry summer (May-mid July), monsoon ( July-Sept), and fall (Oct-Nov).  Just make sure to keep organically feeding your soil so you can grow healthy plants all year long.

What should I grow?

Grow what you and your family will eat!!! And then try something new, like the crops grown by the Tohono O’odham including tepary beans, squash, and 60 – day corn!! Use local organic seeds from the Pima County library (for free!), Native Seeds SEARCH, or from local nurseries. Or if you’re buying plants to grow, always select ones grown here in Tucson, not in Texas or California. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, or sign up for our newsletter to get updates on what to grow during each season.

How do I deal with the hot summer weather in Tucson?

The two best methods are mulching and shading. You can use a lot of things for mulch and can apply up to 4 or even 6 inches.  Our favorite is #2 green alfalfa from feed stores (but be sure to ask for alfalfa with no Bermuda grass!!). This protects the plants, keeps weeds down,  and will add nitrogen to the soil when you dig it in at the end of the season. Mulch will keep the soil cooler and moister.  At CGT gardens, we increase the water from our drip irrigation system in the summer as well, but it’s the mulch, not the extra water, that really helps the plants. You can also shade your plants, using old white sheets, tulle (a lacelike fabric), or some sort of light cloth, supported by posts or frames.  Make sure to keep your soil healthy with compost and organic amendments to support your plants during times of stress.

Do I need to worry about cold weather in Tucson?

We do get one or two frosts per year, usually in November or February. The frost will kill sensitive plants like basil and tomatoes. If frost is predicted, you should consider covering your plants with frost cloth, or old sheets. Remove them the next day so the sun can warm the plants. Many gardeners want to get an early start on tomatoes and put them in the ground in January or February. If you do that, consider planting using Walls o’Water, which make a mini greenhouse around each plant and will protect them. Remove when all danger of frost is passed. Greens, broccoli, peas and most other winter plants will survive most frosts without cover.

Is my soil OK as is? What should I do to improve my soil?

The goal is to build healthy soil to support your plants. You should be adding organic amendments at least annually.

All CGT gardens are organic gardens, meaning no herbicides, pesticides or non- organic fertilizer. The top choice for a soil amendment is compost. You can make your own at home using kitchen scraps, leaves, etc. You can join with other gardeners at your CGT garden and make compost at the garden, or you can buy compost. Two localsources are Tank’s and Compost Cats. If you buy compost, try to avoid one with lots of bark and wood chips. The best compost is what you make yourself!


The second choice is manure. There are many types available in Tucson, often for free if you pick up (look on Craigslist). All will add nutrients to your soil, but be sure to get aged (not fresh or “hot” manure, which will burn your plants) and be sure to avoid manure with weed or Bermuda grass seeds. Steer manure is cheap but often comes from feedlots where diets include things you don’t want in your soil.


Some Tucson gardeners also add blood meal,  fish meal or soybean meal for nitrogen (N) ; bone meal or rock phosphate for phosphorous(P); greensand or granite dust for potash (K), plus   fish emulsion, sulfur, worm castings, bat guano,  or other organic ingredients to improve the soil.                            

What about plant damage? How can I save my crop organically?

Gardeners may not apply any synthetic pesticides, rodenticides or insecticides.

  • Preferred methods for controlling garden pests include crop rotation, hand picking, introduction of predator species, such as ladybugs or lacewings, biological controls, such as Bacillus thuringiensis, companion planting, soil solarization, and row covers. Row covers work best with vegetables that don’t require fertilization, such as lettuce, arugula, spinach, beets, and chard, by preventing insects from getting to them to lay eggs or feed.

 First you need to figure out what is eating your plants.

Birds are the most likely, although they also eat damaging grubs so are good for our plots. To protect plants one option is to make an arch or a teepee out of chicken wire or hardware cloth. Plastic bird netting is not allowed in CGT gardens because it is deadly to our local wildlife. The best choice is a floating row cover. This is a cheesecloth-like fabric that lets air and sunlight and moisture through but keeps out birds and insects.

 Ground squirrels are a curse in many gardens. The jury is still out on the best methods to exclude them. Traps are a possibility, which of course requires removal of the critters caught (HavaHeart Live trap) or disposal of victims of kill traps. In extreme cases, it could be necessary to completely line the planting bed with hardware cloth.

 Gophers don’t like narcissus, castor beans or gopher spurge. These could be planted around the perimeter to help discourage them.

Aphids are small gray-white bugs that appear on the back of plant leaves, frequently Brussel sprouts, broccoli or cauliflower, often by the hundreds. You can spray them with a dish soap solution or purchase ladybugs, who love to eat them. If the plant is thoroughly infested, carefully removing that plant to the garbage can may be your only solution.

 Ants Ants are important decomposers and the earthworms of the desert. They can be a nuisance in the garden, especially during monsoon season. You can try to appreciate them for the hard work they do Or you can try to grind up a grapefruit in a blender and plop the pulp, juice (the whole pulverized grapefruit) on top of the ant hill. Grapefruit skin contains a natural insecticide. It must be plopped on the ant hill immediately after being ground up in order to be effective. Some people have found Neem oil to be very effective.

 Squash vine borers can turn your beautiful zucchini plant to mush in a short while. Check the main stem of the plant. You will probably see something that looks like sawdust stuck to the side of the stem and if you gently squeeze the stem it will be spongy. A squash vine borer is living inside the stem and has eaten the insides and this is preventing water from reaching the leaves. You can try to save the plant by slicing the stem lengthwise with a paring knife, dig the grub out and squish it. Push the stem back together and bury it with moist soil. It doesn’t always work but if the damage isn’t too bad, it is worth a try.

Or, try planting some of the desert adapted squashes available from Native Seeds/SEARCH ( or visit their store at 3061 N. Campbell Avenue). These squash have evolved to live despite the borer by rooting along the lengths of their stems. When the borer kills part of the stem, it doesn’t matter because there are plenty of roots elsewhere along the stem to keep the plant alive and the fruits developing and ripening.

Another technique to thwart the borer is succession planting. Harvest some of your beets, turnips, kohlrabi or carrots now to make space. Sow some squash seeds in the new space (perhaps after adding some organic matter). In the next few weeks the plant will grow and flower and produce. Once production starts, clear another space in your garden and sow some more squash seeds. Eventually, the squash you first planted will be killed by the borer but by that time your second planting of squash should be starting production. Rip out the first planting and sow more squash seeds. You will have squash all summer long, enough to share.

Tomato horn worm: If your tomato plant suddenly goes south and the leaves disappear, you likely have a tomato horn worm. If you look closely in the leaves, you can spot it-it can be 3 inches long and as fat as a cigar. Pick it off and smoosh him…or sacrifice your tomatoes and watch for a really big moth!


How do I know when to harvest?

The best time to harvest a tomato is right before a bird pecks it. If that goal is too difficult, try tugging gently on the fruit. A really ripe tomato will come off in your hand easily. Of course, a tomato this ripe will have to be eaten right away.

For winter squash use the fingernail test. Press your fingernail into the skin, if it leaves a dent, it isn’t ready yet. Pumpkins can be left on the vine until the vine dies (this assumes that vine isn’t taking up valuable space) or you can use the fingernail test.

Summer squash (like zucchini) is easy – harvest when they are small-8 inches Yes, the big fruits are edible (and can be stuffed and baked) but the small fruit can be eaten without any cooking and that is a bonus during our hot season. And you can eat the flowers too! Okra is like summer squash, you need to eat it when it is small, but unlike the squash you can’t wait and let it get bigger. It is a pretty safe bet that a 2” okra is going to be good but you never know for sure unless you squeeze it. If it is still soft, it is good. If it is hard, you need to pick it so that the plant will keep producing but you probably should throw it in the compost bin.

Cantaloupes are pretty easy too. A ripe cantaloupe is very fragrant even while it is still on the vine. It won’t have any green showing. Also, it will “slip”. This means that it will fall right off the vine if you roll it very gently.

Watermelons are one of the most difficult. There is the thumping technique that says that a dull sound when you knock on it means it is ripe. Another method is to look at the underside. If it is yellow, it is ripe. The tendril technique is to look at the 3 tendrils on the vine that are closest to the fruit (going toward the root of the vine not toward the growing tip). If they are dried up and brittle, the fruit is ripe.

Eggplants should be really shiny and the flesh should spring back when pressed lightly. If they have started to get dull, you waited too long. Again, size doesn’t matter.

Corn should be harvested when the silk is dry and brown and when the fluid in the kernel is milky, not clear. You will need to carefully poke a kernel to see the fluid. Peel back the husk a little and poke the kernel. If it isn’t ready, try to put the husk back the way it was. This protects it somewhat from pests.

Green beans are best before there is any swelling of the individual seeds.

Lemon cucumbers are nice because you can tell that they are ready because they turn a bright yellow. The standard green cucumbers can be picked like the zucchini. If you want to pickle them, you can pick them at 2”. If you are going to slice them, you can wait until they are 6” long. If these cucumbers turn yellow, they won’t be very good.

Peppers should be picked when they are the desired color. Don’t wait for your bell peppers to get the size of the ones in the grocery store. They rarely get that large in Tucson.

Broccoli will produce one large central head. Pick it when it is 4-6 inches across. Then you’ll get lots of smaller heads growing up on side stalks. Pick before the heads flower yellow.

Cauliflower should be picked before the head starts to turn yellow and split up.

Radishes, carrots, beets and potatoes need to be felt underground or sampled to see if they are the size you want.

Onions and garlics are getting close to harvest when their leaves turn brown.

What is “no-till” gardening?

CGT recommends that gardeners practice the no-till method for maintaining healthy soils. No-till gardening helps develop soil structure by protecting organic matter and mycorrhizomes (mycelium) from being disrupted and ground up. Instead of pulverizing the soil, this method relies on adding two to four inches of compost and then gently working it into the top layer of soil.  Old plants should be cut off at soil level, and not pulled out so that their roots bind with the soil and create water pathways as they decompose.  Using this gardening technique, the soil just keeps getting better with age!

What about bugs?

Here’s a short version of the sequence to use in dealing with insects you don’t like:

  1. Live and let live
  2. Pick it by hand
  3. Spray it with water
  4. Spray it with diluted dish soap
  5. Apply BT
  6. Apply diatomaceous earth
  7. Try Neem oil or related products
  8. Apply sulfur
How can I help CGT continue its work and expand its mission in Tucson?

You could join one of our committees or our Board of Directors, you could make a donation to CGT or you could join one of our gardens! Inquire at

How do I start a community garden in my neighborhood?

Many people are interested in starting community gardens in their neighborhoods or at schools or churches. In order to ensure success, it is important to consider a number of factors before taking it on. This Arizona Sustainable Community Garden Guide outlines what should be considered and accomplished before a decision is made.