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How to Garden in the Desert

How to Garden in the Desert

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Before we get deeper into this article, we are sure many of you are so puzzled at the title and wonder which world we might be living in. Well, to cure your curiosity from early on, we are going to tell you it is very possible with proper thoughts, planning, preparation, and execution. Come with us on this journey as we unravel an interesting yet intriguing mission to have the perfect garden in the desert…

How to Garden in the Desert article cover image of the desert with cacti

The coronavirus pandemic has hit the entire world, and it didn’t take into consideration the type of climate you live in. With this new reality, people had to resort to working within their conditions and even improvising where necessary. Gardening has become a VERY popular hobby for many people, and they have been trying to figure the best ways to grow outside of the norm.

Take the desert conditions, for example, most people believe that plants simply couldn’t grow in such conditions. Lots of experiments yielded solid tips for success that changed that.

How to Garden in the Desert

Knowing What to Plant

We understand the need to have your own garden, but you want to understand that not every plant is safe to grow under such hot conditions. Usually, research has to be put in place before you can get the results you need, even if you are planting an “unusual crop.”

This is nothing new to planning a garden, instead of working with hardiness zone information, you need to work within the constraints of the harsh conditions. The one benefit that you will have? You can keep a garden going year-round. That isn’t something that you can do in a place like Wisconsin, where you might have snow up to eight months of the year.

You will have to consider both your “warm season” and “cold season” when thinking about what you should and could grow. Let’s start by looking at what vegetables and fruits general work best for the desert:

What vegetables for a garden in the desert?

There are numerous vegetables you can grow in hot temperatures, and you might be surprised to know they are some of the most common veggies you have in your kitchen. Here are a few options you can choose from…

Tomatoes

It would be great if you could simply walk to the local greenhouse and chose the well-started seedlings. That would help you start reaping early days after planting. This isn’t an option for most in that arid climate so you need to do your seed starting yourself. These pre-planted seeds will help provide more stability, especially when planted in certain soil types like drained sand. This will help you utilize less water and other resources.

Peppers

Peppers strive well under hot temperatures, especially after they have gone past the early stages of growth. You can do both sweet and hot peppers.

Eggplant

You can choose from either the small-fruited varieties or the long Japanese versions, which are not as heavy to grow on the select soil.

Potatoes

Well-drained soil is perfect for growing potatoes of all sorts, and you can choose the ones that don’t normally take up too much space.

Cucumbers

You can try cucumbers as they survive well in both cool and warm temperatures. After all, they grow very fast, and by six weeks, you will have some veggies ready to go.

What fruits grow in the desert?

Living in a desert-like climate does not necessarily mean you can’t grow healthy fruit plants. While you may have a few challenges to get over you have hard, though. So, what are the best fruit-tree options for the heat? Check these out…

Apricot Trees

Apricots generally grow to around 15-20 feet and blossoms in white or pink. Interestingly, they survive quite well in the hot climate and do produce quality fruits. However, there are different varieties that you may want to select, such as the Chinese, Royal, Early Gold, and Floragold.

Peach Trees

Peach trees tend to grow up to about 25 feet if they are not pruned but are relatively proactive to the hot climate. If you have limited space, we highly recommend you prune them, so they stay below the 12 feet mark. After planting, you can expect to start reaping your first crop within 3 to 4 years. Interestingly, no rule says you can’t mix the varieties when you plant (you can add multiple seed varieties in a single hole). Some of the best dessert varieties include Bonita, Desert Gold, Rio Grande, and Early Elberta.

Plum Trees

These trees generally grow up to about 10 to 15 feet, and though they would produce much more in the cold temperatures, there is no saying they can’t survive in the hot weather. However, when choosing plum trees to plant in the desert, we recommend varieties like Santa Rose and Beauty.

Nectarine Trees

You may have to prune your nectarine trees several times per year to keep them at a great height and get a good bearing from them. Planting varieties like Gower, Goldmine, and Stanwick and taking proper care of them can allow you to share as much fruit as you need.  

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The Growth Process

Location – location – location

You will need to protect your plants from the sun, as strange as that may seem. If the hottest part of the day is the afternoon, you may want to have your garden receiving shade in the afternoon. Track your sun pattern over the day and it will help you find your perfect location.

Get the soil ready

After choosing the plants you desire to grow and are ready to start, you will want to arrange the soil to be receptive to your future bounty. Whether you want to mix the soil type or you prefer to add compost or fertilizers, it is up to you. The most important thing is to get the soil as “plant-friendly” as possible.

Keep your garden in the desert watered

Water is the third magic ingredient. Plants in the desert tend to need more water than their Midwest cousins. Think of what kind of irrigation system you are going to want. Will you use a slow drip system? Will you be manually watering your garden each day?

Bear in mind, these regions get limited rainfall, so you would want to consider investing in rainwater catchment or build some well you can use to supply your little farm with water. Irrigation pipes, perhaps? This may deter a lot of people, but it is not as complicated as it seems. A lot of “doomsday preppers” have the whole rain-barrel concept down pat.

Getting a few barrels from your local variety store could really help you out when you are looking at having to dole out your precious water resources. In addition to the catchment resources, you can install shade cloths in the planting area to shield the direct onset of the sun or slow the process of evaporation. You want to retain as much water in that soil as possible.

Mulch your garden in the desert

You can also consider mulch! There are many different ways to make mulch, and it can be a critical tool to helping our plants survive in the desert.

So, what does it do? Well, mulch is a great way to keep the roots of your plant moist and keep weeds out in the same breath. Weeds tend to grow a lot in the desert, and they are always competing for water, so you don’t want them to succeed in draining the precious water from the soil that your fruits and vegetables depend on.

A great source of mulch can be made from leaves or even scraps from your kitchen. Interestingly, using scraps from your kitchen as mulch/fertilizer not only keeps water in but also provides additional nutrients. Ever thought of banana peel and the potassium it contains? Well, your plant could do well with some of that!  

Break the wind

The hot wind can really hurt your garden in the desert. Just think of a convection oven. Now think about putting a nice tossed salad in that convection oven. What do you think will happen to it?

The same goes for your garden in the desert – those hot and dry winds will will the heck out of your hard earned produce by whisking away the much needed moisture. Think about some kind of fencing, or have your garden on the side of a building – the side that doesn’t get that hot afternoon sun.

Make new friends

The easiest way to answer any questions you have about your specific growing area is to check with your local agricultural department and Facebook groups. Fellow gardeners who are already working the area you are trying to will be invaluable for tips and tricks that could help the difference between your success with a good harvest or not.

So, what are you waiting for? The land is ready and waiting for you!

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