Gardening Tips for Desert : Year-Round Gardening Provides a Cornucopia of Produce
Desert gardening is not as difficult as one may think. There are a few things one must ascertain in advance, however. If the garden is located in the Great Basin Desert, there are different considerations than if the garden is in the Sonoran or Mojave Desert.
The first thing one must do is test the soil. Desert soil tends to be very alkaline, a soil condition that cacti love, but one that does not nourish most garden produce. Often this soil is very clay-like and as a result will be rock hard when it’s dry. It does not retain water well, or for very long.
After the soil is tested, it will more than likely be necessary to add organic soil in generous amounts to the land being worked. Rototill this mixture in well. Add any compost that may be available. Work the compost and organic soil thoroughly. It may be necessary to add organic fertilizer at this point also, and it’s likely that one will need to fertilize regularly during the growing seasons.
Location of Gardens
There are a tremendous number of inhabitants in the desert, and they will love the garden. Besides snakes which may move into the area because of shade and water, there will probably be a plethora of rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks and even javelina and deer in some areas. Birds will also be frequent visitors.
A good way to solve the problem of these unwanted guests is to use a large dog kennel to house the garden. The kennel will provide good, sturdy fencing with a gate. It’s tall enough to keep rabbits out, strong enough to keep other marauders at bay, and is a good deterrent to birds. The wire fencing is ideal for securing beans, peas, and tomatoes. They also come pre-made, so all one has to do is assemble them!
In addition, it’s very easy to secure netting to the sides and overhead of the kennel to protect plants from excessive sunburn in the hot summer months. Now, add water and watch the garden grow. It will soon become apparent that desert gardens will require even more water than one would expect. This is due to the basic underlying clay soil and the torpidly hot summers. Buy an automatic timer and set the garden up to self-water. Ten minutes a day in the summer should be adequate depending on the sprinklers that are used.
Again, one must be aware of the seasonal changes in the area. Often, even in Arizona, desert areas can get quite cold in the winter for a few weeks. It’s easiest, then, to plant cool weather crops for the cooler winter temperatures, and focus on hot weather crops for the summer months. For starters, try to grow the crops that were grown by native people who may have lived in the area.
High Desert Gardens
Gardening in the high desert, like in Central Oregon, is another story. This area has a number of micro-climates, so there’s no one prescription for all. Generally, however, the growing season is short here, so cold frames or greenhouses may be needed to help bring some of that fresh produce to fruition.(And to get it started in the spring.) Focus more on cold weather crops in this area. Beets and chard can withstand very cold weather, as can cauliflower, broccoli, and a few items.
Container Gardening Not the Best for the Desert
Container gardening can be very difficult in the desert. This is because the pots become so hot that the plant’s roots may burn and wither. Herbs can be successfully grown in containers, but plants with large root systems will have difficulty.