I’m an avid gardener. Nothing revitalizes me more than digging into fresh soil and planting seeds. Living in a warmer climate also allows me to get started that much sooner, and I can’t wait!
Arizona offers wonderfully mild winters and brutally scorching summers. Having spent nearly forty-five years in the desert I know it can be either feast or famine in this region due to the diverse weather trends. The trick is knowing when and where to plant for a successful harvest.
Our soil is not the most compatible for plants. We have dense layers of caliche which makes our land extremely difficult to till. In between these dense layers of mineral deposits are thick bands of sand that allow for good drainage but it also deprives the plants of a solid nutritional base. Hence the need for creating a nice mix of potting soil along with native dirt to establish a uniform platform that will not only nourish the plants but maintain adequate absorption of moisture and aid root support.
There are some areas in the desert where this lovely combination already exists, but even at that after a couple of years the nutritional value of the soil needs to be replenished. This may involve adding additional fertilizer or rotating crops, depending on the size of your garden.
A popular method of gardening is to use raised beds of potting soil. Though the soil may also become stagnant after a season’s use, it is easy to add additional fresh bags of soil with beneficial fertilizers included to renew the bed and replant.
To help increase moisture within the soil there are a number of useful daily items that can be added; crushed eggshells, old coffee grounds, mulches, composts, and gel or silica crystals.
With intense summers a beneficial alternative to provide plant longevity are greenhouses. Though space may be limited, it provides shelter from the searing sun and allows for less water evaporation. Purchasing a kit model with vents and doors improves overall ventilation and reduces the risks of seedling loss to birds, mice, or other natural wildlife. My location is highly active with packrats, a truly invasive and destructive animal that can wipe out a large 20 by 30 foot garden of seedlings in less than two days. Though they are not a protected species, these rodents are not easy to capture and can outsmart a trap. They have excellent digging skills and are considered the Arizona mole due to its ability to uproot almost any location.
Despite the effort required to have a productive garden in the desert, in the long run it is well worth it. The desert can be incredibly productive for gardeners any time of the year if enough creativity is applied towards adapting to the rapidly changing weather schemes.
Be innovative and consider your limitations and location prior to planting and you will most assuredly have a fun and thriving desert gardening experience.