Desert Vegetable Gardening

sandhill_farms(10 NV)June 2, 2010

Well after a several year hiatus from vegetable gardening I'm now getting back-in to it. Given that I'm now retired, (not my choice), I have all the time in the world to garden full-time - bummer huh?

Anyway, we live in the desert in a rural community outside of Las Vegas NV and of course our growing conditions are far different than the rest of the country. I was wondering if many of you also garden in desert conditions as it would be nice to share information back and forth. Also, has Garden Web ever thought of creating a "Desert" vegetable gardening forum?

Given that another of my passions is Outdoor Photography I'll be able to share Photos of my successes and failures as time goes on.

I look forward to reading and sharing information with all of you in the days-weeks and months.


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This one of Steve's on- line books may be useful. He is the author of "Growing Vegetables west of the cascades".

Here is a link that might be useful: Gardening Without Irrigation: or without much, anyway

    Bookmark   June 2, 2010 at 12:54PM
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oregonwoodsmoke(5 OR Sunset 1A)

I can only suggest a lot of good mulch and drip irrigation placed underneath the mulch to conserve on expensive water.

Shade cloth is not too expensive if you buy it from a greenhouse supply company and it could make a lot of difference to your plants.

Or if you have a small garden and lots of funds, a nice looking lattice trellis over the veggies.

Heat isn't going to be the big problem. They grow fruit and veggies in the San Joaquin Valley, Indio, and El Centro where it gets blistering hot. (and the San Joaquin freezes in the winter) Your big concern will be to keep the water usage down as low as possible.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2010 at 1:02PM
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oregonwoodsmoke(5 OR Sunset 1A)

By the way, dry air is great for growing fruit and veggies. The lack of moisture eliminates all sorts of bugs, fungus, and even viruses.

I grew up in Bakersfield where the average year round temperature is 80 degrees. That's below freezing all winter and 120 degrees in the summer.

My father grew tomatoes, radishes, roses, camellias, and plums.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2010 at 1:07PM
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dirtydan(8-9 Lancaster, CA)

Welcome to the forums Greg.

I am living in the California Mojave Desert. You will find a number of regulars here from desert environments ranging from Texas to Ca.

Salinity, alkalinity and soil structure have been my biggest challenges.

Among other things, raised beds have been a big help.


    Bookmark   June 2, 2010 at 1:14PM
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mangledmind(AZ 9B)

Hello Greg,

You can try out the Gardening in Arizona forum here on GW. There's a few diehard desert vegetable gardeners in there, including myself ;)

Here is a link that might be useful: Gardening in Arizona

    Bookmark   June 2, 2010 at 1:15PM
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sandhill_farms(10 NV)

Thanks to all for your advice and welcome. I'm not new to desert gardening by any stretch, I've been a member here since 2001 - :) We here in the valley have the pleasure of having Sr. Sylvan Wittwer who is the (retired) Director Emeritus of the Michigan University Agricultural Experiment Station and Professor of Horticulture living and sharing information with the residents. He has studied growing conditions and plant varieties that do well in our climate and has several publications here locally. I just think it would be great to meet others who grow in the desert to share information and advice.


    Bookmark   June 2, 2010 at 2:36PM
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I suggest checking out Native Seeds/SEARCH. They have a catalog of heirloom vegetables that were grown by the native peoples of the Sonoran desert. They also have info on their site about techniques for desert cultivation.

(I'm interested in heirloom veggies, so it's nice to know of a source of ones adapted to hot/dry climates and not New England or something.)

I live in central Texas, so it's dry, but not desert dry, but I still find tips on arid climate gardening useful. (Especially since we're in year 3 of drought, so maybe before long I WILL be living in a desert!) Another useful forum here on GardenWeb would be the Drought forum for tips on water conservation.

Besides choosing varieties that are adapted to a similar climate, I second the soaker hoses and mulch. I also plant in more of a square-foot configuration rather than in rows, so the plants can shade each other a bit.

It's a good idea to invest in some rain barrels. That way when it DOES rain, you can catch some of the extra that otherwise would just wash away, and that can stretch your water a bit. Some of my neighbors even have great big tanks to catch rainwater.

If you want to get really fancy, you can also rig up some kind of greywater system to reuse water from things like the washing machine, shower, and dishwasher in the garden. Since plants don't need their water to be as clean as ours, it's a shame to let that water go down the drain, and then use more fresh clean water to water plants.

Here is a link that might be useful: Native Seeds/SEARCH

    Bookmark   June 2, 2010 at 3:09PM
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mangledmind(AZ 9B)

Hey Greg,

Maybe with your connections you could get GardenWeb to open a Desert Vegetable Gardening forum, dedicated to strictly desert veggies. That would be cool.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2010 at 6:58PM
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DrHorticulture_(Z3 Central Saskatchewan)

I used to garden in Kuwait, which is about 10 degrees F hotter than Vegas in all seasons. Because of my frost free location, I was able to grow different crops year round (sort of). Warm-season crops like tomatoes and peppers don't tolerate extreme heat, especially when adult. So I planted them in mid-Sept. and harvested Jan-Apr. You might want to shift that back by about 3 months. A greenhouse or some sort of season extender will enable you to take advantage of the winter for warm-season crops, which is a lot easier than fighting the summer heat. The only thing that would grow really well in desert heat in summer is okra. I hope you like okra.

Basically, I would group veggies into three:
Hot weather crops: okra, roselle, other Hibiscus family plants - plant in spring, harvest in summer-fall.
Warm-weather crops: - plant in summer, harvest in fall and early winter. Time it so that they mature in September or later.
Cool weather crops: plant in fall, harvest in winter-early spring.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2010 at 7:09PM
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