The Q&A Archives: Desert Planting

Question: Help! Help! Help! I have just moved from Southern California to Las Vegas, Nevada. I left a spring garden just ready to pop - to dirt, sand and future heat. The garden cutural shock is awful. What flowering plants, annuals, and veggies will grow here? And, is it too late in the year before the heat sets in to plant anything?

Thank you for any help you can give me and my desperate need to plant something.

Answer: I understand your shock. I moved to Phoenix from Southern California 10 years ago. I remember the first time I tried to plunge a shovel in the ground--I had to exchange it for a pick axe!! But take heart. I discovered that once you understand how to improve the soil, you can plant and harvest something year around and grow all kinds of flowers and vegetables. And personally, I haven't found as many disease problems here, perhaps because the dryness isn't as hospitable as a more temperate or humid climate.

You can still plant before the heat, but you might want to consider creating a raised bed for your initial garden. It's usually easier to improve a contained area than a large space. Desert soils have less than 1 percent organic matter, so you need to incorporate a 4- to 6-inch layer of compost into your soil. For soil amendments specific to your area, I suggest you contact the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension office. (Your county agent's ph# is 702-222-3130) They'll have plenty of information (usually free) on a wide variety of topics.

Another good source is the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, which has an excellent web site at

If you decide to plant now, I encourage you to put at least a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch on your garden to conserve moisture and lower soil temperatures. Good Luck!

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