Fall is when most gardeners are prepping their garden for winter. In Yuma, Arizona we are prepping to plant our fall/ winter gardens.  We get very few, frost days so we can plant many, many things.  Commercial winter crops include more that 75 varieties of lettuce, baby greens, cauliflower, broccoli, herbs, root vegetables and kales. There are more than 11 salad processing plants in Yuma and they process 2 million pounds of lettuce per day.  We have the right temperatures all winter long to create the most delicious salads, and vegetables everyone enjoys on their holiday tables and throughout the winter months.

Salad bowl variety.

We start planting the end of August and our produce season continues until the end of April.  It’s quite an adjustment to plant your crops opposite of what is done everywhere else in the country.  If you’re perplexed as many 1st time Yuma gardeners are, this handy chart will help you navigate through your first season and be a great reminder of seasons down the road.


Best grown from seeds:

Beans, peas, cucumbers, squash, carrots, turnips, radish, lettuce, kale, spinach, cilantro, parsley, dill, beets, onions, melons. 

They grow quickly so plant the variety you can harvest in less  65 days.  Buy packets of seeds that are packaged for the year you use them.  Expired seeds will grow but the older the seed the less germination you will get and then you will have to plant many seeds in order to get the same with fresh new seed.  Plan on staggering planting to maximize plantings and harvest.

  • As seeds come up, thin seedlings buy cutting with scissors rather than by pulling out the root. This allows the stronger plant to grow with its roots undisturbed.
  • Seeds will need frequent watering’s to germinate if the days are still warm. Once the seeds are planted do not let them dry out. Dry seeds are dead seeds.  If if is still warm outside when you plant. Plant a little deeper where the soil is cooler.

Lettuce, beets and dill growing in garden.


Best grown from transplants:

Tomatoes, peppers (all varieties), cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, artichoke, asparagus, basil and celery

  • If it is still hot during the day, plant the seedlings at night to let them settle in.
  • If it is cooler, plant during the morning so they have all day to adjust for the cooler night time temperatures.
  • Transplants do well with a little protection like hot caps with the top split if you can find them.

Vine ripened tomatoes.

Cabbage ready to harvest.

Artichoke growing in field.

Best grown from start sets:

Potatoes, garlic, (onions will not form globes when planting sets, plant seeds for best production)

  • Cut the potato into chunks with 2-3 eyes where the sprouts have started to form, plant this in the fall. Harvest next spring. Use the same method for sweet potato.
  • Plant the garlic cloves directly into the ground. Harvest in the late summer.

Garlic planting.

Planting potato.

  • A couple of things to be aware of:
  • In my garden, I have to protect against ground squirrels so I have created a makeshift cages out of gopher wire to place around my tender plants. This discourages the squirrels until the plants are large enough and the squirrels hibernate for the winter.
  • Frost blankets may be necessary if they temps dip below 40. Best to be prepared and have a plan before you need them.
  • Yuma gets lots of migratory birds who love to eat off your new garden too.  Bird netting is a great way to discourage them from tasting your entire crop of freshly ripe tomatoes.

Best winter flowers:

Geraniums, Marigolds, Bells of Ireland, Baby’s Breath, African Daisy, Calendula, Gallardia, Larkspur, Lobelia, Delphinium, Clarkia, Verbena, Zinnia, Cornflower, Pansies, Violas, Petunias. If it grows in the Spring to early summer it will grow and give you beautiful color all winter long.

Zinnia bloom among peppermint and marigold.

Planter of petunias.


Gardening in the desert will be tricky your first year but once you get the hang of it you will start experimenting with all kinds of plants to see how they do. You may get an amazing surprise basket full of yummy, natural, organic produce you can enjoy all season long!

Basket of fresh garden produce.