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Desert Gardening: Farming by the Foot

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Experience the satisfaction of harvesting delicious fruits and vegetables that grow in surprisingly small spaces.

Colorful Swiss Chard Leaves

By Scott Calhoun

Leave rising food prices and poor-quality produce behind and get satisfaction from planting and eating homegrown crops. You don’t need a farm or acreage to harvest your own delicious fruits and veggies. Everyone has room to grow a few edible plants, but choosing the right crops matters more in smaller spaces.


Dwarf citrus tree loaded with ripe fruit

Dwarf fruit trees, and especially dwarf citrus, produce more than enough fruit for most families (and in the case of lemons, maybe enough for the entire block). Dwarf citrus have much to recommend them:

  • Suitable for growing in containers
  • Tolerant of root and crown pruning
  • Easier to harvest than standard trees
  • Easier to protect from frost damage
  • Movable (if grown in a container) to a protected area in the winter
Bright Lights Swiss Chard

Strangely enough, a member of the beet family with the name “Swiss” in it is one of the easiest veggies to grow in desert gardens during the cool months. Swiss chard has an upright habit for tight spaces and is pretty enough to plant by the front door -- presuming this is a rabbit-free zone!

With Swiss chard’s boldly colored stems and leaves, you don’t have to choose between beauty and utility. Cook Swiss chard leaves the same way that you would cook spinach, and cook the stems as you would cook asparagus. They’re great in containers and can be used to add color to beds of leafy greens and cabbages.

Full bed of leafy greens

Leafy greens might be my favorite food crop for a home garden. There is nothing better than picking fresh greens right outside your kitchen door. Even if you only have a pot on a balcony, you can grow greens during the cool months. Sow a variety for different colors and textures in your salad bowl. The upright habit of Romaine lettuce works well in limited spaces.

Green onion ready for harvest

It’s a good idea to disperse onions or garlic amongst your lettuce, cabbage, and even your roses -- as they will discourage pests and are great companion plants -- but keep them away from beans and peas. Harvest green onions when they are the size of a pencil. Onions are good for small spaces because they:

  • Help repel rabbits
  • Provide a strong vertical accent
Strawberry plant

Even some berries can be grown in small spaces. The trailing habit of strawberry plants makes them a good candidate for containers or hanging baskets.