Updated: Jun 20, 2022
Soil is one of the most important parts of your Phoenix Kitchen Garden journey. The right soil recipe provides nutrients and guides the right amount of water to your plants. Simply put, the better your soil the better your results.
It takes time to build healthy soil, which is very different from the dirt you'll find in most yards. Investing in good soil when you start your raised garden bed will not only pay off for your first year of crops, but will later make amending and development of your soil that much easier. I always recommend starting with E.B. Stone's organic soil, Arizona Worm Farm's raised bed mix, or creating your own using 2 parts pit moss or coco coir, 1 part vermiculite, and 3 parts compost.
Compact or hard soil, water-logged soil, or soil where water pools on top will not allow plants to grow properly.
Every couple of seasons before amending soil, I recommend contacting the Maricopa County Extension for a soil test. Testing before amending can help determine your soil's PH balance and any deficiencies so that you can amend accordingly.
Amending Your Soil
In the low desert, it's best to amend your soil in the months around summer - not during the summer! Amending during the hot summer temps puts extra stress on your plants to produce.
Mix organic matter and fertilizers into the soil before planting and while the soil is dry or slightly moist.
Adding organic matter will loosen the soil and make it easier to work, improving nutrients, water holding, drainage, and aeration.
Apply a layer of organic matter 2-3 inches thick over your Phoenix kitchen garden about 1-2 months before planting. Some people work this into the top foot of soil, but I find that lightly scratching the surface keeps from disturbing the drainage and networks below. Healthy soil will absorb nutrients either way.
When adding organic matter I use this time to add nitrogen, worm castings, and any other nutrients the plants I'm growing might need..
Be careful when using fertilizer! Avoid applying fertilizer too close to your plants as it can shock or burn them.
Finish off your bed with 3 inches of organic mulch after seedlings emerge or after transplanting.
PKG Garden Tip
There are many ways to start raised garden beds. Make sure to carefully choose and augment soil depending on the types of plants you are growing.
These are some general rules for choosing the perfect soil combination for your Phoenix kitchen garden, but if you have specific questions or you would like a soil consultation specific to your garden, just reach out - I'd be happy to provide a plan based on the size of containers and types of plants. It all takes a little explanation but I'm here to help!
With so many factors that affect the spaces in your garden, this is part of a longer series of PKG Journal articles. Stay tuned for future topics!