Tips for Gardening in an Arid Climate

Living in Arizona and other Southwestern states can present some difficult challenges when it comes to gardening. Those who have moved from areas that get more rainfall are often perplexed when it comes to raising a successful garden in arid climates.

However, gardening in Arizona and the Southwest doesn’t have to be a major headache. If you know how to properly garden in arid regions then the task becomes quite obtainable. You simply need to readjust your gardening techniques. Here are some helpful tips for gardening in an arid climate that will allow you to grow a thriving desert garden.

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Tips for Gardening in an Arid Climate
Image Credit: vividlife

Select the Right Plants
One area in which you will have to adjust your knowledge is in the types of plants you choose for your desert garden. Plants that you may have been used to that thrived in wetter northern regions are often too tender for the harsh conditions of Arizona and the Southwest.

Therefore, you will want to check with local garden center agents on which varieties grow best in your particular zone. Some plants naturally thrive in dry regions, like quinoa, grapes, amaranth, currants, gooseberries, many herbs, tepary beans and black-eyed peas (and others in the ‘cowpea’ group). Other types of plants have been specifically altered to better adapt to drier climates.

Properly Place Plants
Planting strategies are also different in arid regions. Because water is normally in shortage or more expensive in such areas, it is best to plant your vegetables according to their root systems which allows you to conserve water while getting the most from what you use. Therefore, place shallow rooted plants together such as green beans, beets and lettuce and place deeper rooted plants together like corn, melons, rhubarb, squash, tomatoes and asparagus. Sweet corn and green beans drink in a large amount of water so you can conserve further by planting these together and allowing the beans to grow up the corn stalks.

The sun in the Southwest is also much more intense. Therefore, position plants so that your thirstiest varieties receive sun early in the day when there is less evaporation. If you use containers for planting, place them together so they maximize humidity. Also, position them from taller to shorter plants in order to maximize water run-off and shade protection.

Use Raised Beds and Slopes
You can further maximize growth in arid gardens by utilizing raised beds and slopes in your landscape design. In certain areas of Arizona and the Southwest, the soil is heavily alkaline and produces calcium carbonate layers that are much like cement. You will have better success using raised beds on this type of soil.

Slopes are also great ways to distribute water more efficiently. As noted above, some plants require more water than others. If you strategically plant your garden on slopes with your thirstiest varieties at the bottom, gravity will feed more water to them while keeping your less thirsty plants from getting too much water.

Adjust Your Attention
Northerly gardens require more attention on weed and pest control. In Arizona and the Southwest, your focus should move towards soil, sun and water. Your arid garden will perform much better if you dig deeper and mix a lot of organic material into the dirt which helps retain water. You also want to spend more time digging furrows along the plants and build stone troughs around them so that more water is retained and doesn’t run off.

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As mentioned, the sun in certain areas of Arizona and the Southwest is quite intense. Therefore, use shade cloth to cover more sensitive plants like lettuce. The wind can also be a major problem in some areas and requires blocking to reduce plant damage and water evaporation.
About the Author:

Erica Anderson is a mother of two and avid gardener from Tucson, Arizona.

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