Growing vegetables and herbs in the high desert is a challenge that is worth every seed planted. It’s a process that requires diligence and patience but results in bountiful nutritious rewards.
Basic vegetables and herbs such as listed below are easy to grow even in an arid climate, handy to have in a kitchen garden, and make a good salsa:
- jalapeno peppers
- serrano peppers
- bell peppers
- green onions
Other easy veggies to grow in the high desert are corn, yellow summer squash, kale, broccoli and carrots. If you start with a small garden, several of the vegetables can be planted close to herbs and fruit. Keep in mind that when the summer triple digits kick in, you have to baby those plants especially in Zone 11 where drought is common.
Strategic watering plans are important to soak the soil. Digging trenches is one way. Use soaker hoses or some type of drip system. Layer two or three inches of mulch under plants and on the ground to hold moisture in. Different types of mulch work such as rocks, pine needles, and leaves.
Rainwater collection is also an excellent resource. Catch the water from the roof in containers when it does rain. Visit your local hardware store and ask for rain water storage supplies for your home garden.
Herbs can be planted with the vegetables or in their own separate garden. Organic cooking is enhanced by using fresh spices straight from the kitchen garden. Choose your favorites from this list of additional herbs to plant:
- lemon balm
What difficulties might beginners expect when planting organic vegetable gardens in an arid environment? Look for any of these occurrences to happen:
- certain watering requirements by city during drought
- tomato hornworms
A few things can help with the extreme summer heat like using soaker hoses and mulch. High desert vegetable gardens may need to be watered deeply three times a week. Tall corn stalks provide shade. Mulch helps retain moisture and reduce evaporation.
When there isn’t enough water, all of the garden suffers. Tomatoes can get cracks when the temperature is scorching and there isn’t consistent watering. Look for hornworms on tomato plants. Find them easily at night with a flashlight because they are neon green. They have a dragon-looking head and attach themselves to the leaves. Signs to look for are wilted and spotted leaves, dark green droppings on the top of the leaves, and stems missing leaves. When you’ve seen one, there’s probably more. They will quickly ruin tomato plants. Hornworms also like eggplant and pepper plants. Marigolds and dill are good to plant with tomatoes to deter hornworms.
Aphids are hard to get rid of. They love squash plants and can destroy a large plant quickly. Lavender and ladybugs repel aphids and hornworms.
Rabbits and birds like vegetable gardens, too. Use chicken wire to surround and cover the top of your plants. Put fabric mesh on top of your garden areas enclosed with wire to deter critters.
Enjoy your organic garden, plant lots of lavender, marigolds, and dill. Bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds will be happy, and they will assist in pollinating the garden.