Planning Ahead!

There is nothing better than bringing home from the garden fresh, organic vegetables that you have grown. The flavor of your own veggies is far superior to that which is found in a grocery store.

As you plan your garden, you are probably wondering if you should start seeds for planting or buy plants from the local nursery. The answer to this question may be determined by:

Is this your first garden?
Do you want to plant a spring or a summer garden?
Would you prefer to transplant your vegetables or plant seeds directly in your garden?
Advantages of buying plants – they are ready to transplant!
Would you like to grow your own vegetables to transplant later into the garden?
How much time do you have to tend growing seeds until it’s time for transplanting?
There is also cost involved in purchasing the correct containers and soil.

Seed Starting – consider:
What kind of seeds to start? (There are many kinds and varieties).
What does organic, hybrid, GMO, disease resistant, or heirloom plants or seed mean?
What do you like to eat and how big is your family?
When do I start –for summer transplanting
When do I start – for cool season transplants

Transplant – consider:
What to buy –look for veggies you like to eat
Look for veggies that give you high yield especially if you plan on canning or dehydrating some of your produce.
You may want to look for disease resistant varieties if you are concerned about disease or you may want to learn suitable methods of control or prevention before disease or bugs attack your garden.
In our garden we have concerns about mildew, wilts, squash bugs,
tomato worm and grubs.

Need Answers? Click Here for Gardening 101


Some veggies are best purchased as plants and then transplanted in your garden. Buy only plants that are strong and healthy. When purchasing your plants check with our local suppliers for suggestions and advice. Also Payson Community Garden staff and other experienced gardeners are a great resource for suggestions and advice.

Veggies to transplant to your garden:

Spring: cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, pok choy, onions, and garlic.

Summer: tomatoes, peppers, some squash varieties, watermelon, cucumbers and eggplant.

Veggies to direct sow as seeds:

Spring: lettuce, radishes, beets, carrots, chard, parsnips, peas, pok choy, and spinach.

Summer: bush beans, summer squash, winter squash, pumpkins, corn and sunflowers.

You may decide to buy plants for some cool season crops, like lettuce, beets, chard, spinach and peas or warm season crops as listed above, but they all grow very well when started from seed in your garden. It’s your choice and of course results in an “instant garden – look” which is nice too.
None of this waiting and wondering…


Consider what will grow best at our altitude of 5000’, our temperature range, moisture averages and wind. According to the University of Arizona we are considered Zone 2 – Cool Plateau Highlands. Our elevation of 5000’ is in the middle of 4000’ to 6000’ specification for that zone. Winters may be cold and windy with precipitation coming mostly in January thru March in the form of snow or rain. Night temperatures may dip as low as 5 degrees but generally average around  30 degrees. Fall gardening is possible here, but protection for cool crops may be needed. Our last spring frost date is about May 15 and our first expected frost for the fall is about Oct 20. Plant warm season vegetables that will be ready to harvest, before that last frost date. Cool season vegetables should be planted in August for harvesting by the end of the fall growing season.

Think INSIDE the box

Your garden is 6’ x 25′ x 1’.

Seed packs provide instructions for plant spacing based on a much larger garden then we have here. When planning your garden research instructions for planting in – small space gardens, square foot gardening, using trellises, or intensive gardening for great ideas on how to maximize your garden space.

NOTES, record, history, whatever…

Mark or make notes of the pertinent seed information either in a notebook or on a totem in your garden. Indicate: plant type, planting date, time to germination, and other important facts

Keeping notes indicating when you planted the seeds will save you wondering why nothing is happening in your garden. Although days to germination on a seed packet are approximate they at least give you an idea of when to expect something to happen. You may need to replant due to cool soil temps and moisture which may cause seeds to rot before they sprout.


Totems are stakes with a surface you can write on and are at the beginning of a row or by individual plants. They provide a handy way to note such things as: name of vegetable, planting date, expected germination date, sprouted date, fertilization dates, insect or disease treatment dates etc. They are always at the garden right where you need them. Constructed from 1”x2” construction stake about 24” tall and painted – or not. This size makes them easy to see and use and will last many years. Write on a weather resistant plastic surface labels such as recycled blinds stapled to the stake.

COVERING your seeds or plants,

Consider covering the planted seeds with some form of protection. Covers help keep soil warm, moisture in, bugs out, and tiny seeds in place if you are hand watering or we get heavy rain, both of which can float away newly planted seeds. Using covers protects your new transplants (that just came from a warm vacation climate) and you just planted in your garden during our inhospitable spring planting season. Covers protect them from very windy days and chilly nights until they are established and ready to tackle the world on their own. Types of cover include: frost blankets, floating row covers, sheets, lace curtains, and even window screen has its purpose in the garden. The use and types of covers is influenced by current conditions and the season. See Gardening 101 or classes for more information on covers.

Most newly planted seeds have enough nutrition in them to provide strong initial growth. However, providing good soil and nutrients also aides in a good start for your new plant; this is where your efforts are important.

Fertilizing, if and when necessary, should be done according to the instructions for the SAMSUNGproduct you may be using. Please keep in mind that the garden is considered Organic and refer to the list of approved products that you will find in the garden shed and at: “Alfalfa Tea” by Gary Karlowski and “Glen’s Magic” from Plant Fair are good examples of fertilizers that have been used very successfully at the garden. Directions are found under Gardening 101. You may use other fertilizers but they must meet garden standards. Please ask a staff member before using.

SUNSHINE for all

Your new plants or seeds need adequate light to thrive. Our garden spots provide plenty of sunshine but where you locate your plants in your garden may block some sun from plants that really need it. The recommendation for veggies is min 6 hours of sunlight a day. So consider the requirements of the plants you are growing. Indeed some shade may also benefit your plants, for instance cool crops like chard, appreciate a little shade on hot summer days and even some of our summer crops like a bit of relief on very hot days.

TRELLISING, cages and other supports

Look for instructions about trellises to train otherwise sprawling vegetables. Sprawling vegetables may be contained or trellised without harming their productivity. Think before you plant a giant pumpkin which is going to completely take over your garden space with a yield of perhaps two to three pumpkins. If you really want a pumpkin – think pie pumpkin – which will provide the enjoyment of pumpkin pie but also may be trained to grow on a sturdy trellises. Butternut Squash and other squash plants, cucumbers, and tomatoes also fit in that category. Zucchini is another plant that is productive and fairly large. Properly trained to grow vertically will not affect its production or crowd out the neighbors.

Tomatoes are a good example of plants that do better with support. Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes are not fun to pick if you have to bend over to pick hundreds of quarter size tomatoes laying on the ground! Real tomato cages, made from concrete reinforcing panels are ideal for tomato plants. They are sturdy and tall enough to support the weight and easy to pick the tomatoes on the plant. They are easy to incorporate into your garden plan whether you have 1 or 10 plants. They also work for cucumbers, squash, melons, and pie pumpkins.


Unfortunately cone shaped cages, commonly sold for tomatoes, come up short in the support category for large plants like tomatoes. It is difficult to picture that little tomato plant you bought, along with five of its closest friends in a 6 pac from the nursery, will grow to 4’ tall or taller before the end of the garden season and be weighted down with 10 or possibly more pounds of tomatoes. Most cone style cages are 3 to 4 feet tall. When balanced on three spindly legs in our shallow soil, attempting to defy the law of gravity, often results in plant and tomatoes in a disorderly heap on the ground.

All cages need proper staking to support the delicious vegetables you will be growing this summer. “Tee” post work well as do 3/8” to ½” rebar; pounded securely into the soil for staking your cages. Usually 3 stakes to a cage is sufficient – two if you choose “Tee” posts. Along with cages you may also use fences to hold up your trailing/climbing veggies. But as with cages the fence must also be strong enough to withstand strong winds and a heavy fruit load.

PLAN for the next season…

Crop rotation is often recommended for garden success. It is a bit tricky in a small garden but can be done with planning on your part. Decide what you will be growing this year and give some consideration to what you may want to grow next year or if you would like to plant a fall garden this year.

Making note of the “days to mature” on your totem will help you know what to plant next as one crop is reaching its maturity and going to seed. You will be ready to remove it and plant a warm loving summer vegetable it its place – like green beans. Also consider the other end of the season – as warm summer crops mature – their space can be planted with cool crops such as lettuce, chard, spinach etc.

Best of all – have fun in your garden.