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Desert Gardening: Container Edibles

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Many vegetables and herbs frown at rocky, dry desert soils. Make them feel more at home in containers filled with rich potting mix.

Colorful raised beds

By Scott Calhoun

Desert soils are notoriously rocky and low in organic matter. Many desert natives we grow for our landscaping are adapted to these conditions, but herbs and veggies tend to thrive in soils that are rich in humus. For that reason, containers and raised beds filled with nutrient-rich soil are good choices for growing edibles in low-desert gardens.

In the photo above a handsome raised bed contains a cool-season veggie garden filled with lettuce, Italian parsley, and onions. The masonry doubles as a seat to use while working in the garden bed. Come spring, tomatoes, peppers, squash, and melons replace the plants in this bed.

 

Assorted lettuce in a recycled galvanized bucket

Recycled Success

You can use almost any sort of container, as evidenced by the repurposed bucket, pictured right. When using objects such as buckets, or the stock tanks shown later in this story, make sure to provide drainage holes in the container, and use a potting soil with lots of organic matter.

Herb garden in concrete blocks

In the example at right, simple concrete blocks, whimsically painted and set on end, make cell areas for herbs such as basil, rue, mint, and oregano. You can easily salvage those materials or purchase them new.

Veggie garden grown in stock tanks

Scaling Up

One of the best things about growing edibles in pots is you can always add or subtract containers, as needed. As a young gardener I once rototilled one-quarter acre, planted the entire area in veggies, and was quickly overwhelmed by the weeding and watering. Containers keep everything manageable. So start small, but don’t be afraid to add more.

Tucson artist and garden designer Greg Corman made the converted stock-tank containers featured at right. He added more stock tanks as his interest in growing and cooking his own produce increased.

Tucson artist and garden designer Greg Corman made the converted stock-tank containers featured at right. He added more stock tanks as his interest in growing and cooking his own produce increasedOne of the best things about growing edibles in pots is you can always add or subtract containers, as needed. As a young gardener I once rototilled one-quarter acre, planted the entire area in veggies, and was quickly overwhelmed by the weeding and watering. Containers keep everything manageable. So start small, but don’t be afraid to add more.
Herb garden in concrete blocks

Shrubby Herbs

Some of the easiest herbs to grow in pots are Mediterranean herbs with woody stems; plants such as rosemary, right, and oregano are simple to grow. Others, some with softer stems, are also great in pots:

  • Basil
  • Marjoram
  • Mint
  • Italian parsley

Watering:

  • During the warm months your container veggies might need daily watering. 
  • In the winter months weekly watering may suffice, depending on rainfall.
  • If you cluster your pots near a spigot, you can hook up a mini drip system with a battery-operated timer to water your container edibles.

Exposure:

  • Pots require at least six hours of sun per day.
  • East exposures are excellent for herbs, giving them relief from the hot afternoon sun.
  • Make sure your cool-season grower containers (greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, chard, etc.) receive winter sun. South exposures are usually good.
  • During the hottest months veggies benefit from a covering of shade cloth up to about 40 percent density. This keeps plants such as tomatoes setting fruit longer.

Feeding:

  • Container veggies might need more frequent fertilization because the more frequent watering they require can leach nutrients from the soil.
  • It is a good practice to work in compost at the change of seasons (e.g., when you replace cool-season plants in late spring with warm-season growers).

Regional Guide to Growing Edibles in Containers

Container gardening isn’t just about flowers. You can grow plenty of vegetables, herbs, and fruit in containers.

Learn More

Desert Gardening

Structural and textural plants define the beauty of Desert gardens.

Learn More

Gardening & Planting Tips by Region

Check out a variety of garden ideas, plans, articles, videos and projects for your region. No matter what region you live in, Lowe's has garden tips for you.

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