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Desert Gardening: My Top Ten Gardening Tips

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Gardening in the Desert Southwest can be challenging. But it can also be rewarding when you follow these tips.

Desert garden

I'm a habitual list keeper. I make annual lists of my favorite songs and movies, so why not my top 10 list of gardening tips for the Southwest?

1. Plant desert-adapted trees. Most of the best desert trees aren’t shaped like lollipops; instead they have multiple trunks and umbrella-shape canopies. Consider native species, such as desert willows, mesquite, palo verde (in photo), acacia and ironwood, that are long-lived and water-thrifty.

2. Wildflower it up. Planting wildflowers can help “knit” the spaces between trees and plants in your garden.

3. Succulents rock. Growing succulents, such as agaves, are tough, adaptable and beautiful.

4. Spines are cool.
In the desert many plants have spines, particularly cacti. Cacti come in thousands of varieties, have cool flowers and require nearly nothing from the gardener. Buy some welding gloves and tongs and you’ll find that cacti aren’t hard to handle.

5. Sprinkle in a few aloes for winter color.
Aloes, like other African plants, bloom early in the spring before native perennials kick in.

6. Use permeable paving.
Where possible use pavers that allow rainwater to seep into the surrounding soil rather than run off into the street.

7. Make a rock garden.
This isn’t a garden composed only of rocks but rather a garden of rocks interplanted with a variety of plants that like growing in rocks. For more information check out the North American Rock Garden Society.

8. Buy a pick or digging bar.
Digging in desert soils can feel more like mining than gardening. Ordinary shovels often won’t get the job done. Digging bars and picks will get through tough desert soils—even those with caliche—rock-hard desert dirt that resembles cement.

9. Shrubs are workhorses.
Try summer-flowering showstoppers, like Texas rangers and yellow bells, that will add some serious color and screening in short order.

10. Grow something to eat.
Even if it is just a pot of basil by the kitchen door, it will give you something fresh for recipes and keep you connected to your garden.