How do you grow tomatoes in Arizona heat?

Answered by Douglas Hiatt

Growing tomatoes in the hot climate of Arizona can be a challenge, but with the right techniques and care, it is definitely possible to have a successful tomato harvest. Here are some tips for growing tomatoes in Arizona’s scorching heat:

1. Choose heat-tolerant tomato varieties: Opt for tomato varieties that are specifically bred to withstand high temperatures. Varieties such as Heatmaster, Solar Fire, Summer Set, and Phoenix have been developed to thrive in hot climates and can still produce fruit even as temperatures soar.

2. Plant in the right place: Find a location in your garden that receives partial shade during the hottest parts of the day. This will help protect the plants from the intense heat and prevent sunburn on the fruits.

3. Make some shade: If your garden doesn’t naturally provide enough shade, consider creating some artificial shade for your tomato plants. You can use shade cloth or even set up temporary structures like umbrellas or shade sails to protect the plants from direct sun exposure.

4. Add mulch: Mulching is crucial in hot weather to help conserve moisture and regulate soil temperature. Apply a layer of organic mulch around the base of the plants, such as straw or wood chips, to help retain moisture and keep the soil cooler.

5. Pour on the water: Tomatoes require consistent watering, especially in hot and dry climates. Water deeply and regularly, making sure the soil is evenly moist but not waterlogged. Avoid overhead watering, as it can promote the spread of diseases. Drip irrigation or soaker hoses are ideal for delivering water directly to the plant’s roots.

6. Pick fruit early: Harvesting tomatoes early, when they are slightly underripe, can help prevent them from getting damaged or spoiled by the intense heat. Allow them to ripen fully indoors, away from direct sunlight, to enjoy perfectly ripe tomatoes.

7. Watch for pests and diseases: Hot weather can attract a variety of pests and diseases that can harm your tomato plants. Monitor your plants regularly for signs of common issues like aphids, whiteflies, or diseases such as early blight or blossom end rot. Take appropriate measures, such as applying organic insecticides or fungicides, to control these problems if they arise.

In my personal experience growing tomatoes in Arizona, I have found that providing shade and consistent watering are the most important factors for success. I have also had success with using reflective mulch, such as aluminum foil or white plastic, to help bounce off some of the intense sunlight and keep the plants cooler.

Remember that growing tomatoes in hot weather requires extra attention and care, so be vigilant in monitoring your plants and adjusting your practices as needed. With the right techniques and a bit of perseverance, you can enjoy a bountiful tomato harvest even in the Arizona heat.