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I live in Las Vegas, where year-round rainfall is very low, and summer temperatures can be very high. The humidity is very low, the sky is nearly always sunny, and spring and fall temperatures can remain warm. Wind is frequent.

I have an interest in growing a kitchen garden with some raised beds as a source of fresh vegetables, and would like to know what plants do well in this environment. I understand that there are regions/zones with codes for their climate type, but I don't know how to cross reference them with plant types or if there are guides for growing/planting considerations for each climate or even each plant type, etc.

What plants (vegetables/fruits) will grow well in this climate?

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    Since water is a big issue my suggestions is to make conditions more favorable by increasing water retention capabalities. You will increase the type of vegetables that you can grow. First a raised bed which you already know. Amending the soil with compost, manure, peat moss, perlite and other organic material. Conserve more water with a drip irrigation system. You can make this system simple or very complex. Buy plants that are for your area and you will have a much better chance of success. Good luck – Gardening Directions Jun 9 '11 at 1:32
  • An entire book has been written on this subject which is free to read online. Here is the link to the last chapter, which contains a list of crops that do well with little water: Gardening Without Irrigation: or without much, anyway. – Randy Aug 7 '13 at 0:48
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I live in Vegas and have grown lettuce, spinach, and carrots and am now working on growing cucumbers and zucchini. (I'll let you know in about 6 more weeks how that turned out.)

I use a "raised" bed (actually, I dug about a foot down [boy, was that caliche fun] then used top soil and compost from Star Nursery instead of the horrible soil we have here) and created furrows, then planted seeds as per the packages. I kept the soil moist until I saw sprouts, then just made sure to water every couple of days after that. I got two good harvests of lettuce and spinach before the bugs devoured everything. The carrots turned out good since nothing seemed to be nibbling them underground. This time around I'm using a floating row cover over a PVC structure (sort of looks like a mini-quonset) to see if that helps.

As for what else grows here, pretty much anything, depending upon the time of year. There's a pamphlet called "Becoming a Desert Gardener" from the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension that lists all of the types of vegetables and when to plant, as well as touches on subjects related to our soil. It's been very helpful.

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    Local experience always trumps suggestions from someone afar! – winwaed Jun 9 '11 at 0:53
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    @Bryson Another publication you might enjoy is David Owens, Extreme gardening: How to grow organic in the hostile deserts (Tempe, Ariz.: Poco Verde Landscape, 2000). David Owens is known locally as "The Garden Guy." – GeneJ Sep 21 '12 at 18:40
  • There are more factors to consider besides climate and location, which may influence what you can grow in a particular climate and location. I mean, what kind of soil does Bryson use, and what kind does Michael Todd use? Are you growing in the ground, containers, straw bales, etc.? Are you using a greenhouse, or the open air. What season are you planting in? Are you growing perennials, annuals, or biennials? How do you water? How deep are you planting? Anyway, these are rhetorical questions to consider (you don't need to tell me). – Shule Jan 27 '17 at 23:43
  • Anyway, growing similar plants as someone else in my area with different growing media and watering methods has produced quite different results from each other for the past two or three years. (And not the same concluding results every year; one of us may have advantages one year, while the other may have advantages the next year.) I don't know if each year is so different in your area, but I'm guessing the years differ a lot in most places. My friend has been doing straw bale gardening, and I've mostly been growing in the ground. She's been doing drip irrigation vs. my hose / shower nozzle. – Shule Jan 28 '17 at 0:05
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I think you are going to have trouble without irrigation. In North Texas (more humid and probably slightly more temperate, but 100+ temps are common in summer and frosts in winter), we have mixed results with root vegetables. Their main problem is that they need a lot of water and you need to crop early. Corn and beans have grown okay although I found corn was very sensitive to being picked at the right time.

We find peppers and tomatoes do well although the height of summer does affect their fruit. They need water too.

If you want to do something unusual, my general recommendation for a desert garden would be a xeriscaping approach. We've just built such a bed at the front. Unfortunately most of the good xeriscaping plants are spikey and not very edible. However, opuntia (prickly pears) CAN be eaten. Many Central American countries use the pads as a starch (burn the hairs and spikes off, chop up and fry); and the fruits are sweet (beetroot red and with the texture of ripe pear). As I say a little unusual, but it might be worth a try in your harsh environment.

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We may have a similar climate at least in summer, I am in a mediterranean climate. Heat started early with two weeks of 40+C (104F) followed by high 30s. No rain until autumn if we are luckly. I restrict the vegi patch to a very small area in summer which I can water. A few tomatoe plants which are started early so they are large and fruiting before the heat. A small raised bed (watered) contains a triffid Japanese sweet potatoe (it will take the cold winter), red snake beans that like the heat, dwarf scottish kale which never turns a hair and just keeps going and early planted silverbeat. I use wicker troughs in the shade (they have a water reserve at the base and never need watering) planted kang kong another trifid, boc choy and chinese cabbage. Presto stir fry. Not sure how the asian veg would go if you get very cold nights. Good gardening from Western Australia

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In the Riverland of South Australia we experience 40°C through the summer down to -5°C in winter. My experience is that many common edibles can be grown given the right position within the available environment. I extend my Brassica season by erecting temporary shade structures towards summer, using existing shaded areas for cooler-climate varieties, such as trees and vined fencelines.

Nearly all vegetable types have cultivars suitable from one extreme to the other, so either choose carefully, or do as I do and try all- you may be surprised at the varieties that adapt! A good example of this is the Chinese cabbage from snow-clad regions that was adapted to the harsh Australian climate by early Chinese gold-miners.

As another example, a friend had an open drain from the wash-basin in his shearing shed. Over the years many varieties of tomato seed were flushed through from the boys washing up their smoko (meal break) plates. The result was a hedge of year-round tomatoes. Medium sized and bright red. All you needed to do was crash in towards the middle and pick some. They formed their own micro-climate and once established thrived perpetually, in a 12 inch rainfall area.

Mulberry trees, once established, also create havens from the heat, as do Carobs. Our equivalent to Mesquite is Mulga, and many annuals will utilise its shade to extend their season.

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There are many sources of desert-adapted heirloom seeds. Native Seeds/SEARCH just happens to be the one I'm familiar with in southern Arizona. My goal is for everything in my dirt patch in Tucson to be edible!

You can grow peppers, of course. Tomato varieties with small leaves. Squash, beans, and corn. The Tohono O'odham have a bean called the tepary that is one of the most drought-tolerant crops in the world. There are desert-adapted varieties of wheat, like Sonoran White. And don't forget edible native vegetation. As mentioned in another answer, you can eat parts of many cacti. You can also eat the seeds of palo verdes, either steamed like edamame or cooked like beans after they dry out. You can eat the entire seed pod of certain varieties of mesquite. Many non-native fruit trees also do well in the desert. There are even rumors of avocado trees surviving in Phoenix!

  • Oh, and lettuce and brassicas all winter. – Kevin Krumwiede Jul 31 '14 at 4:27
  • Do you happen to have a list of small-leaved tomato varieties? It's interesting you mention that. Do you know the reason you recommend them, or do they just do better in your experience? You could totally start a cactus farm in that area, probably. – Shule Oct 1 '16 at 2:27
  • @Shule I was told that having small leaves is one of the things that makes a tomato desert-friendly. The only variety I have personal experience with is Yellow Pear. They produce like crazy in partial shade. – Kevin Krumwiede Oct 1 '16 at 3:32
  • That makes sense since plants with smaller leaves would probably lose less water from their leaves. Large leaves are supposed to be good for sunscald protection, but I didn't have any sunscald issues with a small-leaved variety last year, but I have had sunscald issues with plants this year without small leaves. – Shule Oct 3 '16 at 20:51
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I managed to grow cherry tomatoes here in CA. I don't know how I did it but I just dug a foot down and then I used top soil and watered it every day and they came out fine. I did not use any pesticides either.

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Sweet potatoes are easy and love the July heat. Both the potatoes and the leaf is edible.

Chard is good early, as well as beets and potatoes from my experience.

I try many vegetables; some work out better than others. Experiment!

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If scarcity of water is an issue then maybe look into something like hugelkultur: the ultimate raised garden beds.

I usually dig a pit and fill with logs then backfill to make my raised beds. The wood helps retain water and over the years, as it rots down it provides nutrients to your veggies. I water maybe 2 or 3 times over the period of a growing season with great results (disclaimer - I live in the UK so lack of water is never much of an issue!). I read reports from other geographic areas which have claimed similar results.

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I'm just starting (4 years) in a hot, arid area of Baja California. Most things seem to grow well in the cooler seasons and I'm advised that it is a good idea to leave the garden fallow for the summer. Dig it over at the beginning of the hot season to soften it so the pests are easier to find for predators. Despite the advice, I'm trying to find something to grow in the summer. Microclimates within the garden and season play a big role in what will do well in what season. Citrus do well, especially grapefruit and may retain fruit on the tree for most of the year. Mangoes and tamarind can be productive shade but don't fruit in the summer. Pomegranates seem to produce year round. Chard was a surprise and even survived summers. Onions, beets and carrots sown under shade in the summer came up and gave an early crop in the fall. Tomatoes are like weeds here and grew OK in shade during the summer, but like corn, didn't produce because heat inhibits pollination. Salad greens did OK and rocket survived the summer. Sweet potatoes thrive and can be used as ground cover too. Runner (green) beans are also like weeds, and are incredibly productive although not so good in the summer. A 4' row currently produces produces more than we can eat (February). Many herbs like hot climates. Basil and rosemary survived the summer and Basil reseeds. Oregano and thyme also made it through the summer but withered in the fall. Lavender and nasturtiums grow well and reseed. Violets have been a surprise in a sunny, well watered spot. Sunflowers, and zinnias have also done well.

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For people interested in farming in NV:

  • capari,
  • date,
  • olives(they won't yield much but I think it is possible to grow olive trees in certain places in NV),
  • carobs,
  • goji berries(they survive with almost no irrigation but give no fruit without some water),
  • there are quite many cereals that can endure extreme drought and salinity but they yield much less than mainstream grains.

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