If you’re a desert dweller and a gardener, you should be getting ready to plant a winter garden. Despite rumors to the contrary, you can grow most all vegetables successfully in the desert, you just do it at a different time of the year. From my personal experience, winter gardening is more productive than a summer garden. This is the time of year to plant garlic, beets, cabbage, lettuce, peas, potatoes, etc. Anything that won’t be killed by a frost.
Desert soil is very alkaline and lacking in nutrients. You’re going to need lots of amendments. Gypsum, soil sulphur, amonium phosphate, manure and/or compost. Dig or roto-till these in so that everything is well mixed. Many universities and several companies will test your soil for a nominal fee. Soil test kits are also available at most garden centers. If you want to grow organic vegetables you’d probably need different amendments. I don’t use pesticides in the garden, but I’m not as particular about what goes in the soil.
You’ll need to add nutrients, especially organic matter, before each planting season. Each succeeding time you dig it up it will become easier (easy for me to say, my husband does the digging).
Your summer garden will need to be planted long before some of your veggies are harvested. Garlic is usually harvested in May and if you’re growing cabbage it will probably be late April when the last of the heads are ready to pick. If you plant these slow-to-mature plants at the edge of your garden, you can just work around them when it’s time to prepare the ground again.
In a later post we’ll talk about watering and about some wonderful successes (and failures) we’ve had.