Vegetable gardening in the Southwest

One of the most asked questions come springtime is what do you suggest I plant in a veggie garden this year. This question always stumps me because even though I went to an Agg school I really wasn’t taught the ins and outs of food production. I did pick up a few techniques when I studied permaculture.

Like most things techniques and methods change over time so I recently met with an expert to get caught up on the latest in backyard food gardening here in the Southwest. For this I sat down with Tiana Baca, garden manager at the Desert Oasis Teaching Garden (DOTG). The Desert Oasis Teaching Gardens provides a place for our community to join together to learn, laugh, and relax. We work according to the principles of stewardship and resilience. It is an experiential garden fostering agricultural abundance, water conservation, and climate adaptability in the desert Southwest.

What are the best vegetables to grow in the Southwest is the question I posed to Tiana knowing full well that it’s not as simple as plant x, y and z and you’ll be set. Tiana has been experimenting with many vegetable varieties, species, planting techniques, timing, watering methods, soil, and plant companions for almost four years at these gardens. But even with that experience, each year is different. This past winter was mild which means we had less days of deep freezing this in turn means many of our insects were able to survive through the winter. We’re finding those insects in our gardens this season and are needing to adapt to that this year.

Even with all those variables, Tiana and I were able to sit down and come up with a few simple strategies homeowners could try in their own yards. We put together some techniques that have been working really well in the high desert after many years of research and experimentation.

Tiana suggests we break the gardens beds up by Spring and Fall. So we first talked about Fall gardening and the strategies.


Then we looked at the summer gardens. Shade and moisture retention is important in summer because of the intense sun, so DOTG plants their vegetables so that some shade others. Be sure to note the north, south, east, west exposures we noted on the sketches. These are important to taking advantage of the sun. DOTG also uses shredded leaves as mulch on their beds to retain the moisture. As for irrigating the beds, they typically use 1/4 polypipe with inline irrigation every 12″. Which means, every 12″ there is a dripper head that’s already in the 1/4″ polypipe. You can get these are local irrigation supply stores.


I can’t wait to see how your veggetable garden grows. Share pictures of your vegetable garden over on our facebook page.

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