How to Grow Fruits & Vegetables in the Desert

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If you live in a desert climate, or even if you don’t - the world is turning warmer by the day and you need to gain the skills to successfully grow fruits and vegetables in the desert climate where the highest temperatures reach 100 degrees F and above. These tips and skills will help you successfully grow food and maintain your garden in extremely high temperatures.

 

Not every plant you grow will make it in the desert. The tropical plants will survive and grow well if they get the morning sun and in the afternoon, they have some sort of shade.

Tips for Growing in the Desert

Here are 10 Tips to successfully grow fruits, veggies and plants in the desert:

  1. Relying on hand watering is not recommended.

Invest in an irrigation system. Plants need hydration. In a desert, they need even more water just like us humans and you may have to water them more than just once per day.

  1. Full sun does not mean full sun in the desert

When your seed packets and bloggers say “full-sun”, this does not apply to us living in the desert in extremely high temperatures where the UV index is quite high. Our skin gets burnt and the plants get burnt very fast.

  1. Shades

Don’t always assume shade cloth is the best for all plants in the desert. Some plants really need “full sun”. Having said that, creating a microclimate with a shade cloth will save a lot of your plants.

 

Shade cloth can be good or bad. A shade cloth reduces light on your plants, and may (or may not) reduce the temperature.  Reducing light can affect photosynthesis but can also be beneficial for some plants that do not require full sun and the desert sun is bound to kill them. So yea, shade cloths may be good, or bad depending on the plant needs.

  1. Soil

Good soil is hard to find in a desert, even in nurseries. So make sure you are able to procure some high quality organically rich soil. Add worm castings, rock dust, compost and a weekly feed of fish emulsion tea to make the soil more fertile. You just need to make more effort in the desert to grow successfully.

  1. Pick the Right Timing

Planting at the right time is supercritical if you are living in a place where the summer gets extremely high temperatures. Not many of your plants will survive during the peak heat months of June, July, August and September.

  1. Pick the Right Plants

Some plants and vegetables are much easier to grow than others. Eggplants grow better than tomatoes, for example.

  1. Buy transplants rather than germinating seeds yourself

Especially if you are a beginner gardener, and on top of that, living in a desert climate, things can get very frustrating for you if you are trying to germinate the seeds yourself. Although it feels good to see the seeds getting germinated, as the seeds germinate, we need to provide them with sunlight. That is when things get tricky and you may not be successful in supporting the plant at this growth stage.

 

A simple solution is to buy a transplant that is already 6-7 inches tall and has produced a good root system. This way, you get a headstart and can follow these tips to successfully grow these transplants from there on.

  1. Pollinators

In the desert, we don’t have that many pollinators that we usually have if we were living in a different climate. This leads to very poor pollination in the desert. Unless you can hand pollinate with a brush, purchase a small garden hive.

  1. Proper Plant Spacing

It is critical in a desert climate that you space out the plants properly. The harsh sunlight should not fall on the soil, but your plant. Otherwise this will heat up your soil and it also damages the microbes that are in the soil. If you look at your garden from the top, you should not be able to see the soil, just plants. You can also cover your soil with mulch to keep the soil cool.

  1. Grow plants in a raised bed

Growing plants in containers when it's over 110 degrees in the desert is much more difficult as the containers dry out more quickly. This will make your job even more difficult in the desert.

14 Vegetables that survive High Temperatures

Tip no. 6 above was “Pick the Right Plants”.

 

Here is a list of 10 vegetables that you can grow in full sun in extremely hot climates, provided you provide proper watering and good soil. The list is ordered as the easiest first and the least easiest towards the last of the list.

  1. Rosemary
  2. Eggplants

They love the desert.

  1. Basil

It loves 100 degree weather if watered properly. Related plant is a Shiso or Beefsteak plant that is used in Asian cuisine.

  1. Chili and Peppers

Specifically banana peppers or other small fruited peppers like jalapenos or suave numex orange pepper

  1. Okra

Also known as gumbo or ladies' fingers, they do quite well in extremely hot climates.

  1. Jerusalem Artichoke
  2. Red Hibiscus
  3. Stinging Nettle
  4. Water spinach

It is actually quite drought tolerant but water properly as per need.

  1. Malabar spinach

They start growing slow, but once they are off to a good start, they grow very fast. 

  1. Swiss Chard
  2. Moringa or Drumstick tree

The fruit as well as the greens are edible. Even the flowers are edible. Once a moringa tree is established, you can just ignore them. They need very little care. Use wood chips to cover the soil and retain moisture.

  1. Asparagus

They will do well over 100 degrees F provided you water properly. Don’t eat the berries, they might be poisonous.

  1. Neem

16 Fruits that survive High Temperatures

Here is a list of 10 fruits that you can grow in the desert where the summer temperature and heat is extremely harsh. 

  1. Fig

One of the best fruits to grow in the desert. Even if you don’t live in a desert, you can get Desert King Fig that can grow in colder environments. Just water them, feed them well and maintain the soil pH.

  1. Jujube

They look like apples and are also called Ber. It is drought tolerant and likes dry climate. You can easily store them for months.

  1. Apricots

They do need some chill hours so not ideal for all desert climates.

  1. Passion Fruit

Don’t grow them in full sun as they don’t like it.

  1. Grapes

Grow deeply pigmented grapes like red or purple instead of the green grapes and try to grow the seeded varieties. In the seeded varieties, there is more nutrition. One recommended variety is a blueberry grape.

  1. Guava
  2. Brazilian Red Pepper

It is drought tolerant and usually grown as shade, it actually produces edible fruit. It tastes like pepper.

  1. Peruvian Apple Cactus

A beautiful cactus saves your water and gives you fruit as well.

  1. Goji Berries
  2. Pomegranate

There are over 200 varieties of pomegranates.

  1. Mulberry
  2. Date Palm

You can store dates for up to a year.

  1. Mango

It will take a lot of work, but it is possible to grow mangoes in the desert.

  1. Banana
  2. Papaya
  3. Avocado

May need protection in the start, but when they are established, they do really well in the desert.

Fruits not suitable for Hot Climates

  1. Tomatoes

It can get very problematic and very frustrating to grow tomatoes in the desert. Tomatoes don’t take extreme heat too well. However, if you really want to grow tomatoes, try to grow the cherry varieties as they have a better chance of success.

 

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