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Arizona's Garden Guy Offers Tips For A Successful Summer Harvest At Home

If you’re still avoiding the grocery store or reluctant to return to your local farmers’ market for your produce, there might just be another option on the table: Get into the dirt and grow your own.

But with summer upon us, you'll have to take proper care of your veggies.

For master gardeners like Arizona’s very own Garden Guy, Dave Owens, it’s just a matter of proper planning — and proper planting.

“If you grow strictly as a what we call monoculture, you’re going to end up with problems," Owens says. "You’ve got to think about biodiversity, and without biodiversity, you’re not going to be successful out here in the desert Southwest.”

Owens suggests companion plants like Armenian cucumbers that give nutrients back to the soil or Swiss chard to brighten up your garden — and your plate — with shades of red, orange and yellow.

Or if you’re craving other leafy greens that bring extra value, Owens recommends Malabar spinach to provide crucial afternoon shade.

“So, you can grow this up on a large trellis, say some type of hog fencing or anything along those lines," he says. "It will grow and create that afternoon shade that’s so important to those tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and some of those other vegetables that really can’t take real hot weather.”

Now, of course, you’ve got to start with good, nutrient-rich soil — preferably in raised beds. And Owens has a lot to say about composting.

It can be a lot to remember. So Owens wrote it all down in his book “Extreme Gardening” to help home gardeners do it right in this hostile desert environment. But the real beauty of gardening, he says, isn’t in books or research or following any kind of formula.

“You will grow with your garden. It’s a spiritual process, a physical process, and it has a lot of health benefits," he says. "But you learn more by doing than you do by reading, believe it or not. I know there’s a lot of books, including my own, but as you get out there, you’re going to find that you’re much better at it than you really realized.”

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Katie Campbell was a senior producer for KJZZ's The Show from 2019 to 2020.