Desert gardening can be a great challenge because of harsh environmental conditions like frost, inadequate rainfall, and high winds. In addition to the unfavorable climate, desert soils also have a poor nutrient value, rendering the plants unhealthy, and vulnerable to pests and diseases.
Despite the problems encountered in a desert, it is still possible to reap a bountiful harvest as long as you have the right skills to protect your plants from the unfavorable desert conditions. Below are nine expert tips that will make your desert gardening successful.
1. Use the right seeds
Finding the right seeds for your desert gardening is the first step to a bountiful harvest. Agricultural experts recommend that you use local seeds that have adapted to the desert climate. You can find such seeds in your local nursery or order them from online stores that sell heirloom or open-pollinated seeds.
Besides acquiring seeds that are adapted to the desert climate, NativeSeeds’ agricultural experts recommend that you ensure the seeds are non-diseased. The experts argue that healthy seeds equal healthy plants and increased yields.
2. Nurture your garden’s soil
As we all know, soil is essential for healthy plants. This is because the soil holds the roots, and it provides essential nutrients for plant growth. Unfortunately, the desert soil is primarily made up of gravel, sand, and clay that are nutrient deficient, low in organic matter, and high in alkalinity. Moreover, the desert soil has a reduced ability to retain water and moisture.
Based on the reasons above, it is advisable that you embark on improving your garden’s soil quality by using compost or manure. According to an article posted in earth911.com, the use of manure or compost has immediate and long-term benefits like improving soil structure, neutralizing soil PH, and increasing your garden’s nutrient content. Also, the use of compost or manure boosts the soil’s capacity to hold moisture, and it wards of plant diseases.
Just like animals, plants need adequate water to thrive. Therefore, its availability can mean a successful harvest while its scarcity can lead to reduced yields or plant death. Since there is inadequate rainfall in the desert, watering, or irrigation is an alternative way you would provide the plants with requisite water.
For an improved yield, desert agriculture experts recommend a light spray of water for germinating seeds. Subsequently, deep watering should follow after the seedlings have emerged. Deep watering supports root growth as well as preventing salt build up that can hinder plant growth. Since desert dries up faster, you should try and irrigate your plants in the evening when the sun is not so intense. For convenience purposes, you can opt for drip irrigation rather than manual irrigation.
Mulching is another sure way that can improve the yield from your desert gardening. Mulching is valuable for your plants because it helps the soil to retain moisture, it prevents soil compaction, and it eliminates weeds to minimize the competition for water and nutrients.
According to an article posted in better homes and gardens, mulching is essential for desert gardening since it insulates the soil from extreme temperatures that can spoil your plant’s roots and they improve soil fertility. Some of the materials that you can use as mulch include plastic sheets, leaves, wood chips, grass clippings, and field hay.
If you want to reap the benefits of mulching, we suggest that you till your garden before applying an even thin layer on your garden. Ideally, the mulch should be 2-3 inches thick, and it should not touch your plant’s stem.
5. Use fertilizer
The use of fertilizer is an excellent way to provide your plants with essential nutrients they need to thrive. Unlike compost and manure, fertilizers are nutrient balanced to provide the exact nutrients required by your plants, and they are easy to apply. Moreover, some fertilizers can introduce essential bacteria to the soil, they regulate soil PH, and they offer an immediate benefit to plants.
Despite the fact that fertilizer is an alternative to improve soil fertility, we recommend that you use it sparingly since they are gradually depleted, they promote the growth of weeds, and repeated use of the fertilizers can lead to a build up of toxic substances in the soil.
6. Pest And Disease Control
Besides climate, pests and disease are other challenges that face desert gardening. The problem is rampant because the plants are usually malnourished and unable to ward off diseases. For this reason, you ought to find the right pesticides that can control pests as well as the diseases that can destroy your hands.
When shopping for a pesticide, we suggest that you shop around for one that is biodegradable, less toxic to human beings, easy to apply, and one that eliminates pests selectively. It is also advisable that you choose an organic pesticide.
It is common knowledge that plants compete for light, nutrients, and water. Therefore, correct plant spacing is the only way to eliminate this competition, thereby boosting a healthy plant growth. Besides promoting plant growth, spacing also encourages flowering, and it reduces the risk of spreading pests and diseases from one plant to another.
The minimum distance between plants that grow to a height of 3 feet ranges between 18 and 30 inches and the spacing would be more for plants that grow more than 3 feet tall. For this reasons, we suggest that you thin out your seedlings by eliminating the weak and leaving out the aggressive ones.
8. Protect your plants against wind
The strong desert winds is another environmental factor that you should worry about when doing desert gardening. This is because the strong winds can uproot your plants, increase evapotranspiration, and shake off your plant’s flowers, leaves, and other plant parts. These effects collaborate to reduce your yield.
For this reason, windbreaks are necessary to shield your crops against strong winds. Some of the possible ways to prevent the wind include the practice of agroforestry, fencing your garden, or the use of straw bales.
9. Plant at the right season
Lastly, you can achieve a bountiful harvest if you plant at the right season. For instance, you can plant collard greens, broccoli, myriad lettuces, and kale during the cool seasons of the year. This saves you from the need to water your plants often as well as the pests that go dormant during the season. However, you can plant some plants like tomatoes in the warm months since they tend to yield more during that season.
As can be seen, desert gardening is not a challenge as long as you have the right gardening skills to protect your plants from water scarcity, extreme temperatures, and nutrient deficiency. Some of the key skills to increase your crop yield include regular watering, planting during the right season, mulching, and use of manure to enhance soil fertility.