Desert Gardening Advice

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Having a beautiful garden in a desert environment is not impossible if you follow a few easy tips. This is a page about desert gardening advice.


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I live in the desert Southwest and it was costing and arm and a leg to water my plants even though we have no lawn and plant desert adapted versions of plants. Trying to water sparingly just killed plants and made the survivors look droopy.

Finally, I bit the bullet and put in a drip system, which in the summer we run at night to reduce evaporation. Our water use was cut by 75% and the plants have never looked better.

To keep the drip working in this hard water area, every few weeks I pull all the drip tips and soak in vinegar, or CLR if they are really bad. Some of the desert adapted plants are versions of plants grown elsewhere, such as desert gold peaches, and some types of roses which bloom almost all year here with very little care and not much water. So we are able to have a nice, pretty yard that isn't all cactus, eat fresh fruit, and not spend a fortune.


By Chiismychi from Tucson, Az

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Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

September 9, 2007

I am looking for ideas for non poisonous shrubs for desert gardening. I would like color with flowering plants.

Hardiness Zone: 8b

Cuppie from North Las Vegas, NV


By Artsy (Guest Post)
September 10, 20070 found this helpful

I love my Desert Willow. It produces pink flowers from Spring to Winter. It grows fast and sways in the wind. I have only watered it once this year after the rains stopped in the Spring. I have tried to prune to make it taller but it grows how it wants so just gave up.

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While visiting my friend Tone', I enjoyed her potted dessert rose in full bloom. I imagined what a treat it would be to come across in the desert.


By Sally from Chewelah, WA

Pink and White Desert Rose in Bloom

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May 5, 2009

Our Desert garden is in bloom.

By Mary Vine from Tucson, Arizona

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November 19, 2018

Many vegetables such as tomatoes, squash, and peppers grow well in the desert heat. You will be able to grow more types of veggies by planting earlier in the year to avoid the summer heat. Choose a good location, water appropriately, and mulch as needed. This is a page about planting a desert vegetable garden.

Planting a Desert Vegetable Garden - young elephant watering a bean plant in the desert

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ThriftyFun is one of the longest running frugal living communities on the Internet. These are archives of older discussions.

July 7, 2009

Tips for gardening in the southwest. Post your ideas.


Tips for Southwest Gardeners

I am not so sure about that. As an experienced gardener, I know that corn has to be planted in five parallel rows in order for the plants to produce. This is necessary for cross pollination. Secondly, tomatoes tend to spread out, and need a lot of tying and staking. They also like hot sunny weather.


One way to protect them is to mulch them. My tomato plants have always done best (although this was in Iowa,) when I planted them in a place where I had full sun, all day. The best companion plants for tomatoes are marigolds and nasturtiums. Both draw beneficial bugs and repel some bad ones.

As far as peppers are concerned, experience has taught me once again, that a good pepper crop requires that plants be planted at least a foot apart. They may also need to be tied and staked. Tomato plants should be planted about 18 inches apart. Another thing to remember is that you should always rotate your planting. Do not plant the same thing in the same place year after year. This causes soil erosion, and since tomatoes often produce volunteer plants the following year, planting them in the same place is almost like inbreeding.


The best way to protect any crop from the elements is make sure that you are planting something that is suited to the area of the country you are planting in. For example, I just planted some container tomato plants. They are on a patio which faces east. Last year in Iowa, I could not have done that for at least another two weeks because they still haven't past the danger of frost point. That's not such an issue in Central Texas because the temperature rarely drops below freezing, and certainly not at all at this time of the year.

Also, another thing to consider is that tomatoes like soil that is rich in nitrogen, so the fertilizer that is specific to tomatoes certainly wouldn't be suitable for peppers and corn. I tend to prefer to plant corn someplace away from other things because it requires so much space. (04/29/2005)


By Susan

Tips for Southwest Gardeners

There are two reasons for rotating crops, (not planting the same thing in the same place each year), and neither of them are to do with soil erosion:-) Mainly its to prevent the build up of soil diseases that are plant family specific so you shouldn't plant anything of the same family in succession, e.g. brassicas, like cauliflower followed by broccoli. Also different plant groups have different feeding needs, e.g some crops like a lot of manure but things like carrots don't so you can plant manure loving plants one year and then plant the carrots without re fertilising the ground.

The main reason for soil erosion is wind and rain on bare ground, especially where the surface has been disturbed, (think about dust storms in dry ploughed farmland or land degraded by cloven hoofed animals - a big problem here). Plant roots hold the soil and plants shade the surface keeping the soil biota alive. If you aren't planning on planting anything in a garden bed throw on a few old out of date seed packets or some leguminous seeds, (which fix nitrogen on their roots and fertilise the soil). Before they flower/fruit slash them down and turn them into the soil to rot down for a couple of months and fertilise the soil for your next vegie crop.

Southwest gardening sounds a bit like gardening in midwest Western Australia - hot! To shade plants prone to sunburn like tomatoes you can also just break off a leafy tree branch and stick it into the soil to dapple the shade on your plant during the midday hot period. (04/30/2005)

By Jo Bodey

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