High Desert Vegetable Garden

High Desert Vegetable Garden

Planting and growing flowers, plants, or vegetables, is not a new idea.  Although it may have become even more popular with families during this past year.  With all the time spent at home, and with the kids doing virtual schooling, many decided to start a vegetable garden.  It was a great way to not only grow fresh vegetables for the table but to educate the kids in the process – from planting to harvesting.  

It was a rewarding experience and it also got the kids questioning – can you grow a vegetable garden in the desert?  Well, I guess it was time for another learning adventure.

What Are The Things To Consider In Starting a Vegetable Garden In The Desert?

There are basic things to consider when starting a garden, no matter where you live, such as climate, what to plant, soil conditions, water, sun, and possible pests.  So, what do we look for in starting a vegetable garden in the desert? 

Climate – The desert is known for its hot, dry climate.  It has limited rainfall, sometimes to the point of drought and hot or cold dry wind conditions which can also cause problems.

Right seeds – If you want a successful vegetable garden it is important to find seeds that are non-drought tolerant and have been grown and adapted to the desert environment (ex: Heirloom varieties).  Some cool seasonal vegetables are: Beets, Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots, Lettuce, Onion, Pea, Potato, Radish, Spinach, Turnips.  Some warm season vegetables are: Beans, Cucumber, Eggplant, Melon, Pepper, Pumpkin, Squash, Corn, Sweet Potato, Tomato.

Soil conditions – Desert soil is usually full of sand, gravel and clay.  It is important to amend the soil with organic nutrient filled soil, either from your own compost or nursery bought.

Water – Plants have difficulty drawing water not only through their roots but leaves as well because of the desert’s dry climate.  It is very necessary that the plants get consistent and regular watering and some of the easiest ways are through drip irrigation and mulching the beds. Mulching will keep the weeds at bay, protect the surface of the soil from elements while holding in moisture.

Sun – If not addressed, the sun can literally burn or fry your vegetable plants due to the high altitude and UV rays.  Shade cloth, which is like an awning, is one way to deal with the sun’s rays and heat.  Another way of dealing with the sun is having a companion plant that shades the lower growing plants.

Pests – Vary in different areas, so it is always important to be aware of what types of pests may visit your desert garden.  Whether you choose a non-chemical method, organic method or a bait product method, make sure that you are prepared so that you can deal with it quickly and prevent any long-term damage.

As stated above, wind conditions can also cause problems to your garden.  One affordable way of dealing with this is the placement of straw bales around the garden as a windbreak.  If it is not completely surrounding your garden, you can change the placement of the bales depending on the direction of the wind.

More Details To Help Your Desert Vegetable Garden Thrive …

  • If this is your first attempt at a desert vegetable garden, start off small.  Do your research.
  • Have the soil tested to check its nutrient level and make sure that you have the right nutrient requirements.  
  • Location is important, make sure that your garden gets the right amount of sunlight, around 6 to 8 hours – full sunlight in the morning with some afternoon shade to keep moisture retention.

  • Using drip irrigation for your vegetable garden during the summer for 30 to 40 minutes in the morning is ideal.  When days are extremely hot, hand watering the plants in the evening will help until the morning.
  • Research the various types of garden formations – hill planting, broadcasting seeds, inter-planting and relay sowing in two-week intervals. (More experienced gardener)
  • Make sure to add more organic matter and nutrients at each planting season to keep soil fertile.

The Bottom Line

Well, growing a vegetable garden in the desert is a little different than the one you grow in your backyard, but the satisfaction is the same.  Whether you choose to plant your vegetable garden in containers, a raised garden bed, or directly into the ground it will be a rewarding experience for everyone involved and you will all reap the bountiful benefits!

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