Gardening in the Desert

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A while back, I shared that we were creating a garden space with the kids. Here in the Phoenix area, our climate is such that that you can very successfully have a fall/winter garden. I’d been wanting to try it for years and I’m SO glad we finally got around to it!!

We broke ground on the space in August and got our transplants in over Labor Day weekend. It was still really hot, so we planted seeds a couple of weeks later. Here’s how things looked on September 5th:

While small plants are certainly WAY more expensive than seeds, I’m glad we started with a few small transplants. It gave us some form of “instant garden gratification”. Plus, Big Brother could understand more easily why we needed to water & be careful in the garden space. Our transplants were 7 tomato plants (different varieties–6 cherry tomatoes and 1 big boy tomato plant), 6 pepper plants, 2 cucumbers, 4 strawberry plants, and a variety of herbs–basil, peppermint, chives, garlic chives, rosemary, lavender, and cilantro. The herbs are plants in the cinder blocks lining the garden. A few of the plants didn’t make it–it was still too hot. We lost the cilantro right away, as well as two of the pepper plants. Everything else hung on.

By October 15th, the garden looked like this:Look at how much those tomato plants grew in 6 weeks!! Wow!! You can see that we also had our rows of little seedlings popping up by this point. From seed, we planted spinach, romaine lettuce, butter head lettuce, green onions, 2 varieties of carrots, beets, radishes, cilantro, snow peas, and sugar snap peas.

Here’s the scene two months later on December 11th…Hello, Garden!! 🙂

One thing we didn’t take into account when we started (in August), was the whole tilt of the Earth/height of the sun issue. In August–almost the entire space was in sun. But, by November & December, barely half the garden was getting direct sunlight (as shown above). So, you can see a very clear difference in the plants. The things on the right, getting daily direct sun are HUGE, and the things on the left, not so much. In fact, the spinach never really grew past seedling size due to the lack of sun. And, we lost our cucumber plants two weeks later during our freezing overnight temps. Even with that though, we’ve been having a lot of fun with it!

The whole process has been a fantastic learning experience for the whole family! We’ve enjoyed finding various fun creatures, like earthworms and praying mantis; talking to Big Brother about seeds & how things grow; fun flowers & curling vines; and of course, the fruits of our labor.

Recently, we’ve been able to harvest on an almost daily basis. Having fresh garden salads is AWESOME!!! On Friday night, we had salads with fresh lettuce, tomatoes, radishes, and snap peas from the garden! So cool! And, thanks to a fun facebook discussion yesterday, I now have lots of great ideas for our abundance of tomatoes. I think a garden fresh homemade salsa is definitely in order since we have tons of tomatoes, cilantro, garlic chives, and green onions! 🙂

Now, we’re getting ready to plant a few new things for the spring season. All the stores here are definitely well-stocked with garden supplies, transplants, and seeds!

If you live in the Phoenix area, I’ve found some really great resources on desert gardening:

Do YOU have a garden? What is your favorite thing to grow?

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I’m Sara, a mom to three adorable boys living in the Arizona desert. As a former teacher, I love sharing my passions with others. So, have a look around for creative inspiration about cooking, creating, celebrating, traveling with kids, and more everyday mom endeavors!


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10 Responses

  1. Do we have a garden !!!! It is nearly 20 ft by 60 ft… We rely heavily on Mother Nature to help with the water as we have it planted 3 miles from home and have to haul water when the rains are scarce and the collections system goes dry. 🙁 Last summer was way to hot and dry for IA. The tomotoes struggled so we did not get but a dozen or so quarts put up. But we had green beans coming out our ears. LOL. The best part of the gardening was the times Grandson came along to help plant or harvest. He loves his beans and peas raw right off the vine. Yummy. We are putting in more raised beds this year. Much easier to tend. Besides all the usual vegtables we are trying to get some apple, pear, peacha nd a variety of nut trees to produce. Some grapes, strawberries, raspberries and lots of flowers, too! After all you must feed the soul as well. Happy Gardening. Hugs….

    1. WOW!! Now that’s a garden!! 🙂 Or, maybe more like a small farm! 🙂 The fruit trees sound extra fun! Oh…and how I love fresh raspberries. I don’t think they’d do well here! But, we LOVE them when we visit family in Nebraska in the summer. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  2. That’s a beautiful garden! I’m surprised you don’t need a razor wire fence around it to keep out the bunnies! I wish we could do one, but with all the rabbits (the pellets cover our yard), I think we might fight a losing battle. Did you build up your garden area with imported rich dirt? Thanks for the post – I just may get up the courage to start a desert garden.

    1. Wow, Cindy! That’s crazy! We’ve never had an issue with rabbits! We’re right across the street from a desert wash & large park that is FULL of bunnies at night. But, we also have block wall fencing around, so the only way they could get in is under our gate.
      As for the soil, yes, we added quite a bit to it because the soil needs some serious help here. 🙂 I’ve gotten a few questions about that in various places, so I think we might do a detailed post on everything we did to get started! 🙂

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