What Garden Vegetables Can Grow in Arid, Sandy Soil? - Knowledgebase Question

Rio Rancho, NM
Question by rfalanga
February 15, 1998
We live in a suburb of Albuquerque, NM, called Rio Rancho. We're at a little more than 1 mile in elevation, and it is very dry here. Additionally, the soil in Rio Rancho is truly one of the worst I've ever seen. It is very, VERY sandy. Everything we've tried to grow dies, unless you apply a LOT of water. However, the water that we've applied in the past to get any sort of a vegetable garden is so very high (nearly $300/monthly) that it would simply break our budget. I'd like to know what sort of vegetables CAN we grow, successfully, in such harsh conditions?

Answer from NGA
February 15, 1998


I'd suggest you try the Native Seeds/SEARCH catalog (526 N. 4th Ave., Tucson, AZ 85705, ph# 520-622-5561). It contains seeds for plants well adapted to the hot, arid southwest. I also suggest you find a good reference book for gardening in such an arid climate -- one very good one is "Desert Gardening: Fruits and Vegetables", by George Brookbank (Fisher Books, 3499 N. Campbell Ave., Ste. 909, Tucson, AZ 85719, ph# 602-325-5263), published in 1988. It has all sorts of information about soil improvement, watering, insect and disease management, and planting calendars. It may be that with a little work to improve your soils (such as adding lots of organic matter, and mulching plants well) plus timing your planting carefully, you may well be able to grow and enjoy your favorite vegetables.

Also, contact your Cooperative Extension service (505-867-2582) for information about vegetable gardening in your climate. (And if you're interested in ornamentals for your region, check out the book "Xeriscape Gardening: Water Conservation for the American Landscape" by Connie Ellefson, Tom Stephens, and Doug Welsh (Macmillan Publishing, 1992). Good luck!

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