How to Grow a Vegetable Garden in the Desert


Successfully growing vegetables in your desert garden requires an understanding of your particular desert climate. While desert settings benefit from ample sunlight, you have to consider extreme temperature variations, soil condition and moisture levels when planning and planting a vegetable garden. With a bit of advanced preparation, many varieties of vegetables will thrive in your garden.

Step 1

Choose a site for your vegetable garden. Plan your garden in an area away from shade trees, as vegetables need 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight per day. Clear the area of any weeds, stones and unwanted plants.

Step 2

Prepare your soil for growing. Till the soil to a 12 inch depth to give breathing room to your vegetable roots. Most sandy desert soils lack organic matter and do not retain moisture well, so you will need to incorporate compost and a phosphorous-rich fertilizer into the loosened soil. Remove any remaining stones or rocks as you till.

Step 3

Select vegetable varieties for your garden. Planning your garden on paper ahead of time will help you to best utilize the space. Place leafy vegetables like spinach and lettuce in the shadier areas and keep taller varieties along the north side of the garden. If you live in a high desert climate, position vegetables that require a long growing season along a south-facing wall to radiate extra heat during cooler months.

Step 4

Plant your seeds according to the plan you created. Most vegetables should be planted approximately 18 inches apart and to a depth 4 times the diameter of the seed. Cover the seeds with soil and firm with a garden hoe. Place plastic garden markers to indicate plant locations and to assist when watering your garden.

Step 5

Water your vegetable garden lightly every 2 to 3 days. When your seedlings develop 2 or 3 leaves, allow the soil to dry out between heavy watering to encourage deep root growth. This will make your vegetable plants more resistant to the arid desert conditions. Water in the early morning or late evening to prevent water evaporation.

Tips and Warnings

  • Protect your garden from pets and other small animals with a fence or plant cover.

Things You'll Need

  • Compost
  • Fertilizer
  • Tiller
  • Hose or watering can
  • Small shovel
  • Seeds
  • Hoe


  • New Mexico State University: Home Vegetable Gardening in New Mexico
  • Backyard Gardener: Growing Vegetables for Beginners
Keywords: desert vegetable gardening, growing vegetables desert, dry soil gardening

About this Author

Lydia Stephens began writing professionally in 2009. She has written online for Nile Guides, and various other Web sites and has been published in "Stringing Magazine" and "Xiamen Wave." Stephens played competitive soccer for 19 years, has been weight lifting since 2007 and enjoys running, biking and sailing. She has a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy from the University of Texas.