What Summer Veggies Grow in the Desert?

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Hello my dear friends. I truly hope that you are enjoying lots of sunshine and fun-filled days with your loved ones 😀  With summer officially here (June 21st), Hubby and I sure have gotten a jump on the great outdoors in our own little slice of heaven… our garden and orchard and I’m lovin’ every minute of it, too.

This same time last year, I was really struggling with my health and spent most of my time cooped up indoors and at the doctor’s office.  On February 6th 2012 I was happy, active and enjoying life then on February 7th, I wasn’t.  Bedridden, sick, weak, unable to eat and struggling to take in air.  I wrestled with this undiagnosed “mystery” illness for seven months before tossing aside conventional medicine and embracing integrative/holistic medicine.  Only then did I see small incremental improvements in my health and my breathing.  An absolute God send.

My return to gardening was slow and challenging, but the more fresh fruits and veggies I ate from my own organic home-grown garden and the more improvements I made to my soil (i.e., minerals), the more improvements I saw with my health.  I’m absolutely convinced that the nourishment my fruits and veggies provide me along with good ole’ sunshine helped to bring me where I am today with my health.  Though still recovering, my home-grown bounty gave me a much-needed boost in the arm when I needed it.  This leads me to my ultimate goal… to grow a wide variety of high brix nutrient dense fruits and veggies to help both my hubby and I regain and improve on our health.

I’m so grateful that I’m sitting here today and am able to share my desert gardening experience, knowledge and challenges with you.  My hope is that my words, photos and garden art will not only help to encourage you to grow your own fresh fruits and veggies, but to grow it in such a way that it is highly nutritious and health promoting.  Be courageous. Experiment. I’ll be right there by your side cheering you on the entire way 😀

So what can you grow during the summer months in a hot arid climate?

All kinds of fruits and veggies.

I’ll save the details of how-to garden in the desert for a future blog post, so for now, let’s take a look at just a small sampling of what can be grown successfully in a hot and dry climate during the summer months.

Here are a few things I’m growing in my summer garden right now…

062214_GardenUpdate3Rainbow Swiss Chard.  In addition to all their delicious “yumminess”, the colors are vibrant and stunning. I was captivated by how beautiful the sunlit chard leaf looked this morning that I had to share it with you.  I love, love, love the shocking pink color.

062214_GardenUpdate11Borage.  This is such a beautiful fuzzy herb.  Most of the Borage in my garden was looking sad and dried out, so I pulled them out a couple of weeks ago.  Except this guy.  This one is located on the East-side of my Raised Bed #2, which is located under 30% shade cloth.  It gets full morning sun and is then lightly shaded all afternoon. Some folks say you can eat the leaves and flowers, but I have yet to try it… a little too prickly for my liking.  Bees love it, so it stays 🙂

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Summer and Winter Squash.  The mainstay of summer gardening!  This year in my summer garden I’m growing Yellow Straightneck Squash, Fordhook Zucchini, Bennings Green Tint Scallop Squash and Waltham Butternut Squash. Most of my squash are growing in full sun with the exception of my butternut squash and scallop squash.  The raised bed in full sun was full so I decided to plant these two varieties in one of the raised beds under the 30% shade cloth.  They are doing awesome.

I decided to trellis my butternut squash this year rather than letting it ramble about on the soil.  So far it’s working out very well.

062214_GardenUpdate10Lettuce.  Now is the time to grow warm season lettuce.  I bought a new variety to try this year and so far it has outperformed my expectations of lettuce this time of year.  It’s thriving very nicely in my garden on the north end of my raised bed (under 30% shade cloth).  The lettuce does get a tad bit of afternoon sun and stays quite perky even with the sun on it.  The variety… Bronze Beauty.

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Cucumber.  Another mainstay of the summer garden.  This year I’m growing one Lemon Cucumber and it’s decided to take over my five foot wide trellis leaving very little room for my butternut squash.  Sheesh.  These cucumbers have a mild flavor and are easier to digest than other cucumbers.  Over the weekend, I noticed that several flowers have bloomed. Awesome!

062214_GardenUpdate4Poha Berry.  This summer I decided to kick it up a notch by planting something more exotic.  Poha Berry is also known as a Cape Gooseberry or Golden Berry and the smooth skinned gold/orange fruit grows in lantern-shaped papery husks ~ similar to tomatillo fruit.  It is called poha in Hawaii where I believe it was first discovered around 1825. This fruit is supposed to be a bit tangy and taste like pineapple and strawberries ~ so I’ll have to wait and see.  So far this little gem has performed very well under the 30% shade cloth and started to bloom a few days ago 😀

Notice the paper collar at the base of the plant in the photo?  I had two plants growing and when they were small seedlings, a cutworm chomped the other plant in half 😦  I’m so glad I was able to save the other plant.  It’s now about 12″ tall and growing.

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Thyme and Basil.  Besides growing Borage, I’m also growing thyme and several varieties of basil to include Lemon, Genovese, Thai, and Cinnamon.  All of them smell just heavenly but I am particularly drawn to the sweet scent of the Cinnamon Basil.  I just love to rub the leaves between my fingers and breathe in the wonderful spicy sweet scent.

I like to let some of my basil go to flower just for the bees.  They L O V E it!

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062214_GardenUpdate8 062214_GardenUpdate9Pansies.  P A N S I E S!?! In a 100°F+ temps? This is a shocker to me as well.  I have one cluster of pansies (about 16″ L x 12″ W) growing and thriving in my garden.  This plant continues to trail out and send out flower buds and blossoms and is very happy growing in the shade of my Swiss Chard and Cucumbers.  I do notice the flower petal edges curl a tad bit, but other than that they’re doing well.  I keep the soil moist (the shade helps with that) and deadhead the spent flowers regularly. That’s it.  Who knew.  I’m going to try and save some of the seeds for next year since this is such a strong performer.

062214_GardenUpdate18Ensign Flowers. This is a gorgeous flowering plant.  I always like to tuck in some beautiful color here and there throughout my veggie garden and this plant is really holding up to the heat. It’s a vining plant, but it does not send out additional roots along it’s vine. I believe it’s a type of morning glory. So beautiful.

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Tomatoes and Tomatillo.  This year I’m growing a number of tomatoes and growing them “single stem” up on a trellis.  All of my tomato plants are under the 30% shade cloth and performing exceptionally well. A few leaves here and there are brown or dying back a bit, but I’m very pleased with their performance overall. There is more than one way to successfully grow tomatoes in the desert.

About 7 years ago, I purchased tomato seeds locally and decided to see if they would still germinate.  To my surprise, they did so I decided to go ahead and plant them in the garden with the expectation that they would not do well based on the age of the seeds.  The tomatoes proved me wrong.  The plants are strong, healthy and productive.  One plant has 42 fruit and counting another has 39 fruit and at least another dozen or so fruitlets and the cherry tomatoes are too numerous to count.  What are the varieties?  Hawaiian Tropic, Heartland VFN, Green Grape, Sweetie Cherry and Stupice (pronounced Stu-Peech-Ka).  Next year I plan to either give away or toss these seeds (except the Stupice… I just purchased the seeds this year).  I already have my eye on several different varieties for next year 😀

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Oh, I’m also growing Verde Tomatillo in my garden, too.062214_GardenUpdate29062214_GardenUpdate30

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Peppers.  This year I’m growing a number of peppers that include… Pepperoncini, Purple Jalapeno, Multi-Color Cayenne, Sweet Cherry, Slim Pim, and Red Buran.  The Sweet Cherry, Slim Pim and Red Buran varieties are struggling and just not performing well in my garden so I’ve marked them on my “do not buy in the future” list. On the other hand, the Pepperoncini, Jalapeno and Cayenne are doing very well.  My pepperoncini plants all have flower buds that are getting ready to burst open in the next week or so.092313_Onioun

Onions. All sorts of onions do well here. What’s great is that we can successfully grow short-day, intermediate and long day varieties of onions here.  So awesome that we have choices.  I am currently growing Green Bunching, Red of Florence, Candy, Texas Legend, and Red Candy Apple.

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 Eggplants.  Ratatouille here I come! I’m growing Long Purple and Listada De Gandia, a beautiful heirloom eggplant that has purple and white striped fruit. Yum!

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Beans.  I have several bean plants growing in my raised beds.  I’m growing two heirloom dry beans Calypso and Lina Sisco’s Bird Egg and also Provider, a green bean.062214_GardenUpdate22062214_GardenUpdate23062214_GardenUpdate19062214_GardenUpdate21

Melons.  Hubby and I built a 10’x10′ raised bed for our melons this year and boy did we go a little crazy with it.  We are growing Moon & Stars Yellow Flesh Watermelon, White Wonder Watermelon, Sugar Baby Watermelon and two unique muskmelon-types… Indian Cream Cobra and Zatta.  The bees have been very busy pollinating our melons and we currently have a ton of melons to show for it.  Thank you bees!  Since all the melon vines are spilling out over the edges of the bed, I think we’re going to need a crane to harvest melons in the middle of the bed. Yikes! I see lots of melon dishes in my future!

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Amaranth Leaf. Now this is a new one for me.  I love to eat leafy greens because they are so high in nutrition and they add a nice flavor to soups (part of my daily health regimen).  Because of this, I’m always on the look out for new greens I can try to grow in my garden different times of the year.  I read about amaranth leaf in an article about greens that do well in hot and arid climates.  Go figure. The gardener who wrote the article was having great success with them, so I decided to give it a try.  One note… amaranth leaf is different from the amaranth  seed you would buy to harvest its grain.  I found amaranth leaf seeds online at Kitazawa Seed Co.  I am growing Red Leaf Amaranth and Red Beauty Amaranth.

In addition to the fruits and veggies above, I’m also growing:

  • Molokhia (Egyptian Spinach)
  • New Zealand Spinach
  • Heirloom Sweet Potatoes (for the tubers and the leaves) ~ Sharp, Stevenson and Vardaman
  • and of course, Sunflowers ~ Lemon Queen, Arikara, and Rustov

Next year, I’ll be trying a number of new varieties of fruits and veggies and will be sure to pass along the info on which ones do well here.

New Gardening Group in Las Vegas, Nevada ~ Come Join Us!

Hey Las Vegas gardeners, there’s a fun new group starting up in town that will be focused on one of my favorite topics.  Yup, you guessed it… gardening in the desert. We’re just getting started and would love to have you join us.

Our next meeting is scheduled for Saturday, July 5th at 9:00 a.m. at Viragrow.  Sal Ramirez, the owner of Viragrow, has generously opened his doors to us as a meeting location in his air conditioned meeting room.  Did I mention air conditioned?  Seating is limited, so please be sure to let us know if you’re interested in attending by contacting info@viragrow.com.  During our meeting time we’ll be checking out Viragrow’s test garden and discussing current challenges with tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, squash, melons, corn and other summer veggies and herbs.

Interested in shouting out your gardening successes to the world? At the tail end of our July 5th meeting, fellow garden blogger Bob Morris and I will be conducting an introduction on how to get started using various social media to tell your story. You’ll be taught some of the basics of blogging including how to set up your account at Blogger or WordPress.com. Other social media will also be covered including Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. The meeting room is internet ready and we encourage you to bring your laptop so you can begin blogging real-time!GardeningGroup_062114So, come and get connected with like-minded folks who just love to grow their own food.  It’s a safe place to kick back and chat up a storm about the in’s and out’s of gardening in the desert.  Our group is committed to celebrating our mutual interest in home gardening while respecting our differences in how we garden in the desert. See you on July 5th!

Happy growing!

I’m sharing my post at:
An Oregon Cottage ~ Tuesday Garden Party

God Bless,

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6 Comments

Filed under In The Veggie Garden

6 responses to “What Summer Veggies Grow in the Desert?

  1. Lois

    Your vegetables not only look healthy but look beautiful too.

  2. Hi April,

    It is so nice to see you and your mind-liked people in the picture. And it is so touched that you group of people are getting together and trying to help other people to get and share hortculture experience and information through web technology. I wish I would join you there.

    Your swiss chard, Amaranth Leaf looks beautiful. In south of China, people like to stir-fry Amaranth Leaf with garlic and also like to use theamaranth leaf soup to make steamed buns.

    I did find bagrada bugs on my long nooddle bean leaves on June 21, 22. Their number was 6. These two days I haven’t found anymore. Hopefully I will not see them again the rest of summer time.

    Thank you!

    • Hi Lilly,

      You’re comments are always so sweet… thank you. Yes, I’m really excited about our new gardening group and I’m certain, as a group, will have tons to talk about. The Amaranth Leaf is new for me this year in my garden. I’m very pleased with it’s progress and it is holding up really well to our heat. I tried it in my veggie soup the other day and it added a very nice flavor and color to my soup.

      Sorry to hear you have the dreaded bragada bug. I sure hope you’re right about them being gone. You might want to take a peak at the base of the plants for a few days just to be sure. Chat with you soon!

  3. Extremehorticulture

    Hi April! Great job, as always! Can you put on Blogger where there is Share this: ? Then I can post it on my blog. Thanks.

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