I’ve never really had much of a green thumb: My forays into growing plants were usually confined to elementary school science experiments with growing beanstalks from seeds wrapped in wet paper towels. Seeking to expand my growing horizons, I decided to undertake some balcony gardening with my wife. Given Arizona’s relentless heat and arid climate, there was much to learn.
Our first major exploits involved jalapeno plants, a cherry tomato bush, and an asparagus fern. We started a bit late in the season (most people usually start planting in late fall/early winter in Phoenix, due to the merciless heat of the summer), but the tomato plant we purchased already had some fruit on it. Everything started to wither and die come the first signs of summer: We were only able to harvest a dozen or so tomatoes before that browned completely, and only one of the jalapeno plants gave us fruit (a mere two meager peppers). Figuring out when to water was very challenging, as was the placement of our balcony: We had trees and buildings blocking the sunrise, and with no light from the afternoon or the sunset, we were working with about 2-3 hours of direct sunlight a day. What did survive incredibly well, oddly enough, were two succulents we transplanted from one of those grocery-store miniature gardens you can buy for $20. We lost one, unfortunately, during a particularly harsh sandstorm/rainstorm combo. The other, I’m proud to say, has a little bud at the top that we hope will bloom into something unique and amazing!
We also happened upon an Earth Day festival at Steele Indian School Park one day and decided to check it out. It was there that we discovered people harvesting vegetables from large planting boxes on the West side of the park. One gentleman offered us a handful of radishes and explained the deal: You can sign up for a free plot of land at the park and the city would pay for the water you use, so long as you maintain your little plot of land.
I was able to revisit there nearly a year later and find out all sorts of goodies: They have boards that show you which plants are in season, everyone decorates their plot to make it there own, and the people with plots are very friendly and helpful when it comes to picking your crops. If you’re near the cusp of Central Phoenix and Downtown, it’s an awesome place to grow some veggies if you don’t mind traveling to get there.