Warm-Season Vegetables for the Southwest

The weather is warming and the vegetable gardening questions are mounting – time for the warm-season vegetables! Good news – there is so much to plant now in the Southwest!

Warm-Season Vegetables are Many

So many choices, so little time and space! You could grow: Amaranth, Artichoke, Beans, Corn, Cucumber, Eggplant, Greens (MANY!), Melons, Millet, Okra, Peppers – both Sweet and Hot, Squash – Summer, Squash – Winter, Sorguhm, Sunflower, Sweet Potato, Tomatillo, Tomato, Zucchini, and more.

Site For the Garden Part I

First of all – where exactly do you live in the Southwest? We have a very diverse area. Gardening in Reno will be different from growing in El Paso! BUT! But also not all that different! Our SW region is very different from “back East” because of our unique SW soils, relatively low humidity, and overall arid climate.

When I write about gardening in the Southwest I refer to these five Southwest Zones time and again. Why these five? Because the USDA zone maps are only about how cold it gets, they are not about the totality of climate.

Site For the Garden Part II

Now that you know your Southwest Zone, time to think about your yard. To put it simply, earth, air, fire and water all play a role in gardening success. Here are some guidelines for overall vegetable gardening success – more here.

Where to Get Seeds & Seedlings

You can order seeds through many seed sources – listed here.

And starting seeds indoors might be a good idea – especially since little baby plants can dry out so quickly when they are first starting to grow. Seed starting tips – here. 


Baby basil are somewhat delicate. Starting them indoors will improve your chances of success.

But let’s say you want to get your garden going right now and in a hurry? You can grow seedlings from your local nursery! I recommend a local source because plants from the big box stores may not be ideal for our climate.

I Mourn the Loss

If you are new to following this site, the hackers destroyed so much. I do have some warm-season vegetables back up on the site, and hope to recreate more such posts soon.

Meanwhile, if you read about the Three Sisters garden – here, at least you can also read about some of the many beans to grow in your Three Sisters garden.

If you grow beans, also grow some of the herb epazote. A few leaves of this Mexican herb added to beans as they cook helps break down some of the enzymes our digestive tracts can not. Think of epazote as a natural “Bean-O” plant.

Sunflower is a good plant for the warm-season, and while you may not think of it as a “vegetable” it does bring in the pollinators that you need for so many warm season crops. And the “petals” are edible – as well as the seeds, so I hope you will grow some sunflowers.

Fertilizer for Warm Season Vegetables

Although we call it a vegetable garden, technically it’s a fruit garden. Plants are grown for the fruits, the part with seeds inside. Plants producing fruits especially need phosphorous. On fertilizer packages, phosphorous is represented by the middle of the three numbers, or as the middle letter of NPK. Select a fertilizer high in P later in the season. More about fertilizer – here.


Young vegetable plants, about two weeks after transplanting or out of the seed, primarily need nitrogen and potassium, N and K, for healthy leaf and root growth respectively. A general fertilizer, one with NPK: 20: 20 : 20, will work fine. Established “vegetables” will produce best with a “bloom” food, one high in phosphorous. If you grow only the Three Sisters, you may not need to fertilize. Especially since the bean family members do not appreciate nitrogen fertilizer.

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More about fruits for your landscape in this book Southwest Fruit and Vegetable Gardening, written for Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press).  This link is to Amazon and if you buy the book there the Horticulture Therapy non-profit Tierra del Sol Institute will get a few pennies – at no extra cost to you.

© Article copyright Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. You must ask permission to republish an entire blog post or article. Okay to use a short excerpt – but you must give proper credit to Gardening With Soule. You must include a link to the original post on my site. No stealing photos.

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