Best Tips For Desert Gardening
One of the most challenging climates to grow anything is a desert. Deserts are, by their very nature, devoid of many of the natural nutrients and building blocks for life that plants thrive on. Not to mention, they come along with more than a few added hazards! However, there are a few tips and tricks that can be used for dealing with the arid, hot, and windy atmosphere of a desert.
If you live in the deserts of the southwest, you can still look forward to overflowing crops with a bit of care and know-how. Let’s take a moment to go over a few of the most essential tips you need to know when trying to grow your garden in the desert.
1. Pick The Right Seeds
All plants begin as a seed. This seed will have packed within it a near-limitless potential for growth, beauty, and life. However, within the seed is also a predetermined species that will significantly limit the ability of that seed’s ability to grow in certain circumstances. That is why you have to choose the right seeds for growing in the desert–simply put, some will be better at it than others.
Your local nurseries and farmers’ markets will often have a wide selection of heirloom veggies and fruits that have been adapted and bred to grow in the desert. Consult these sources for seeds that have the best chance of desert survival.
2.Prepare for A LOT of Water.
Water is one quite literally the source of life. As far as we know, no life can exist without it. This means that in an arid climate like the southwest, you will need to commit to watering your plants… A lot. The most natural methods for getting your plants, the water they need are often:
This is a system of watering your plants with hoses that are laid carefully around the base of your plants in the garden bed. The hoses will have spaced out holes that allow water to slowly and steadily drip out over the soil and roots over time. This system is generally expensive to set up, but is highly effective and offers a great sense of comfort knowing your plants are consistently watered.
Rain Water Storing.
Through the use of rain barrels and other water catchment systems, you can harvest naturally occurring water for very nearly free. So long as it is legal in your city, rainwater collection is a great way to water your plants without skyrocketing your water bill monthly. In addition, some rain barrels have hose attachments to provide drip irrigation at the same time!
No matter what, you will need to prepare for a high amount of water. This is going to be one of the biggest hurdles when attempting to grow a garden in the desert. However, it doesn’t have to be a total uphill battle so long as you make some careful preparation.
3.Don’t Forget to Mulch!
Mulch is a great way to help seal in moisture and protect the plant itself from other hazards. Mulch can be made from wood chips, straw pulled weeds, or even by merely purchasing mulch from your local nursery. It is an absolute necessity for keeping moisture in place and protecting your plants from the harsh temperatures and elements of the desert.
4.Prepare and Care for Your Soil.
Desert soil is not exactly hospitable for many different types of fruits and veggies. It is often filled with sand, small stones, clay, and other such harsh earth elements. This needs to be fixed by adding in the proper nutrients and organic matter for your plants to feed on. You can choose to make your own compost or to purchase some high-quality organic matter from your local nursery.
The soil in deserts will need to have semi-regular amendments to keep it ‘up to code.’ This means that about once per year, you will need to nurture the soil to keep the nutrient balance updated. This can also include planting some cover crops for use during the offseason, just to keep the soil chugging along as needed.
5.Beware of the Wind!
Flatlands and deserts are a wind nightmare. There are very little natural windbreaks to keep the fast and harsh winds from leveling your crops in a matter of seconds. This means that you will need to take care to build or provide windbreaks for your plants to protect them from this ungodly wrath.
Typically windbreaks will be made in the form of dense fencing or walls. These can be had by carefully placing your garden against the structures that you already have. However, if growing in an open area, you may need to get creative and build up your own. Some popular methods are using hay bales or other natural objects you have lying around to protect the plants from, particularly windy days. You may also want to consider trellising your plants with supports. However, these are not to be relied upon 100%–nothing can replace an excellent sturdy windbreak!
6.Don’t Forget the Sun!
Perhaps the greatest menace to plants in the desert is the hot and scorching sun. This may come as a surprise, but too much sun can actually be a bad thing for many plants. Not only can the heat dry them out and wither them, but over absorption of sunlight can also actively hamper the growth of many plants. Here are two ways to help protect your plants from the harshest sun conditions:
Many desert gardeners will use posts and mesh cloth to build a man-made shade for their plants. This can help to provide a safe and sturdy method of shade for your plants when the sun is at its zenith. This is particularly useful for plants such as squash, and other bush types.
Companion planting is the method of planting other crops alongside your more fragile crops for support and help. This is usually done as a way of controlling pests, pollination, and even providing shade. For example, lettuce is often grown in the shade of corn stalks. Once you have ensured that the taller companion plants are safe to grow next to your more sensitive plants, you can choose to use them as a more organic way of providing shade.
Growing your own crops in the harsh conditions of the desert can be extremely daunting. It is not a task that many would-be gardeners feel they are immediately up to. However, it absolutely can be done, so long as you have the right mindset and a bit of know-how. With some time, patience, and extra care, you too can have your own flourishing garden even in the deserts of the southwest.