October – February
|Sunchoke(after Dec)||Swiss-Chard||Tomato(seeds inside)||Turnip|
Tomato plants (protected)
April - August
Irrigation Repair Videos
How to easily replace your drip tapes
How to fix minor irrigation leaks
What’s the “community” in Community Gardens of Tucson (CGT)?
Ideally, each garden is a little family of gardeners who help and support each other. Our gardens have educational and social gatherings se we can get to know each other. And ideally, each garden is a part of the neighborhood where it is located and helps bring neighbors together. And collectively, CGT is part of Tucson, a UN City of Gastronomy, where growing food has been important for 4000 years!
Who can join a CGT garden?
Everyone is welcome! Sometimes you may need to be on a waiting list for a specific garden, however, if it is full.
We are committed to community gardening that is equitable, inclusive and accessible to all people regardless of race, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, immigration status, family status or ability. We are equally committed to doing everything we can to help eliminate bias, discrimination, and intolerance in our gardens.
We have many immigrant and refugee gardeners. Some of our gardens have special programs for kids to get them interested in growing their own food.
How do I start gardening at a Community Garden?
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 520-336-8741 and we can do them over the phone.
New Member Application– please fill out this online form helps us track any needs or accommodations so that we can stay in communication and support your gardening.
New Member Packet– 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.
New Member Packet E-Acknowledgment– So that we don’t have to keep track of hundreds of pieces of paper, please e-sign the New Member packet you reviewed with your Site Coordinator by following this link.
4. Process your Payment! Please pay your plot fee quickly and securely here.
If you are interested in plot fee assistance, work exchange or other payment methods, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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?
Yup! The plot fee is $18, 12 or 6 per month depending on your income. The dues cover mostly water and the small part-time CGT staff that help maintain the gardens. CGT is an Arizona non-profit.
CGT offers plot fee assistance to those in need, provided funding is available to support this program. We also have a Work Exchange Program. Contact email@example.com for details and eligibility requirements. Here’s the plot fee assistance application.
How many plots can I have?
A gardener may have 2 plots. However, if the garden is not full, a gardener may take on extra plots with the understanding (to be committed in writing) that if a new gardener comes, the new gardener gets the 3rd plot after the plants in that plot have been harvested by the gardener who had the extra plot.
What’s the policy for gardens that are full and have a waiting list?
If there is a waiting list for a garden that is full, gardeners will be limited to 1 plot/gardener so the garden can benefit from having more gardeners gardening there.
In a CGT garden does everyone help grow and harvest from all of the plots?
Nope. Each gardener (or family) has a plot and grow what they want to. Then they harvest their row. Taking veggies from someone else’s garden plot without their permission is stealing from them. One nice thing about being in a community garden is that you can learn from your neighbor about new veggies and how to grow them and help each other if someone needs it.
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?
Lots of gardeners donate food to the Community Food Bank or sell extra produce through the Food Bank Farmers Markets. Others donate to local churches, shelters, and other locations to help those in need.
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). Generally, we recommend using short season (60 day) crops.
What should I grow?
Grow what you and your family will eat!!! And then try something new, like the crops grown by Native people in Tucson for many years!! 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.
If you sowed seeds, you may be wondering why you haven’t seen any seedlings yet. If you planted small plants, you may be wondering why all of the leaves are gone. Both disappointments are caused by the same culprits. We had a very poor monsoon this year and many of the birds and animals are hungry and your newly planted gardens are too tempting to pass up. In most cases around our city, the damage will have been caused by birds. You need to evaluate your area to determine what type of critter has eaten or is likely to eat your crops. Are you going to have trouble with javalinas, domestic cats, pack rats, deer, birds, rock squirrels, gophers, ground squirrels, rabbits or humans? Each varmint requires a different strategy.
Cats might like to use your garden as a litter box. The easiest solution to discourage them is to place chicken wire or hardware cloth on any exposed soil. If you have sown seeds, you need to prop up the mesh so that the plants can grow without becoming distorted. The cats can’t dig because of the mesh and they will find someplace else to do their business.
Birds are the biggest problem right now. One option is to make an arch or a teepee out of chicken wire or hardware cloth. Plastic bird netting can protect your seedlings but it also tends to snare lizards. 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. It has an advantage over other materials in that it generally does not kill any creatures. In addition, floating row covers provide some protection from frost. The lightest covers provide about 3F protection. The heaviest covers provide about 12F protection.
Rabbits can damage both your plants and your irrigation. A low vertical fence of chicken wire or hardware cloth will keep them out. Chain link fencing is not a rabbit-proof barrier because many rabbits can squeeze through the chain link openings. Rabbits will sometimes dig under a fence and this is more of a problem once they figure out that it is possible, so it is best to keep them from learning how. Try lining the bottom edge of the fencing with rocks or boards, burying the bottom edge slightly below the surface or folding the bottom edge out about 6 inches.
The jury is still out on the best methods to exclude ground squirrels and gophers but the proposed method is to bury fencing at least 18 inches deep. The bottom of the buried fence should be bent at a right angle with about 6 inches sitting on the bottom of the trench pointing toward the direction of the intruders. Again, chain link won’t work. It has to be fencing with smaller openings. Since it is a bit of work to bury fencing so deep, you may want to use fencing made of heavy gauge wire so that it won’t rust through too quickly. In extreme cases, it could be necessary to completely line the planting bed with hardware cloth. Leave some of the fencing above the ground so that you have a place to securely attach more fencing to cover the planting bed. Since squirrels climb, it is necessary to either completely cover the planting bed with fencing shaped in an arch or you can try a vertical fence, about 24 inches high, with a band 8-12 inches wide around the bottom made of a slick material so the squirrel can’t get a grip. Gophers don’t like narcissus, castor beans or gopher spurge. These could be planted around the perimeter to help discourage them.
Excluding varmints from your garden requires vigilance. Be observant as you approach and work in your garden and you may see which critters are getting to your plants and how they are getting in. When you know which critter is eating your plants, you can tailor a solution. Remember, once your plants get big enough, they will be able to sustain a little damage and still provide you with a great harvest.
How do I deal with the hot summer weather in Tucson?
The two best methods are mulching and shading. You can use lots 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.
Do I need to worry about cold weather in Tucson?
Yes. 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 some sort of cloth-old sheets or whatever. 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?
You want soil that is dark, high in organic matter and capable of holding water. Often this means you have to help or “amend” the soil. Some folks do this seasonally, others rarely, depending on crop production. If you are not getting much produce or if everything is small, you could consider amending your soil. You can also get your soil tested to see specifically what is lacking.
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 main sources are Tank’s and Compost Cats (after Jan 2021). If you buy compost, try to avoid one with lots of bark and wood chips. And forget “compost” that is sewage sludge. 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 plants.
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. The Arizona Extension service has lots of information about soil and its condition.
What about plant damage? How can I save my crop organically?
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 tends to snare lizards, which we like because of their interest in bugs. 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 may leave on their own. 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 (http://www.nativeseeds.org/ 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?
Many CGT gardeners have stopped tilling their soil. The reasoning is that we are trying to develop soil structure, where the organic matter and the mycorrhizomes (mycelium) in the soil are protected from the disruption of being ground up. Instead of pulverizing the soil, this method relies on adding 2-4 inches of compost and gently working it into the top layer of soil and cutting off old plants at soil level, not pulling them out, so as to allow their roots to hold the soil together and to created water pathways as they rot. 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:
- Live and let live
- Pick it by hand
- Spray it with water
- Spray it with diluted dish soap
- Apply BT
- Apply diatomaceous earth
- Try Neem oil or related products
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org/
Thanks for your interest in CGT
Community Gardens of Tucson
5049 E Broadway, Suite 300
Tucson, AZ 85711
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CGT recognizes the historical injustices perpetrated upon the Indigenous people of the Tucson Basin. We honor and celebrate the cultures and contributions of those whose land we now garden on.