Growing food in the Dessert of New Mexico

Jacqyelyn Posts: 2
edited February 2018 in Our Garden: Growing Food
I don't live in that environment, so I don't have any specifics about growing techniques. But if you don't mind being a little flexible with your plant selection, you might be able to give yourself a head start. You could try growing edible plants that are native, or invasive, to that area. I'm not sure what that would be, besides cactus, yucca, and aloe. I'm not a desert person. But surely there's something.


  • Jacqyelyn
    Jacqyelyn Posts: 2
    edited March 2018
    Thanks for the tips Scott but with the drought we are having her this year a lot of the native and invasive plants are dying off.   There is a food called napoles I think.  It is the round leaf (if it can be called that) that can be cooked  like I cook squash.  We had a big patch when we moved here 18 years ago but I can't find it anymore.  It is really getting bad here.
  • sherryo
    sherryo Posts: 58
    edited March 2018
    I'm in TX, not in the desert but I use a lot of ideas from Brad Lancaster.  He has several books that you might find at your local library. "Create an Oasis with Greywater" and "Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands" are two good ones.

    Here are some things I have done:
    • Help make it so that the water stays and doesn't run off.  I moved my gardens to lower areas. I added tiny swales, rocks, and broken tree limbs.
    • I add organic matter, as much as I can find.  I use leaves, wood shavings, compost, grass clippings, coffee grounds.
    • Plant lower, so that the water runs to the plant, not away.
    • Plant closer, so the plants protect each other.
    • Mulch the plants to keep them cooler and keep water from evaporating.  I use cardboard as mulch on top (weighed down with rocks).
    Talk to others about when to plant things in your area and how.  Farmer's Markets are a good place to find people and they usually are very happy to share what they know.
  • Alison
    Alison Posts: 179 ✭✭✭
    edited September 2018
    I hope your situation has improved a bit regarding the drought. I am in NSW Australia and we are in a very bad drought at well.

    We have very hot summers, rather cold winters and now drought. Here is what I have found successful:

    * Mulch a LOT. There is a method called Back To Eden. Basically lots of woodchip. You may not have that available. But you just use whatever mulch you can get and put it down deeply. There is also a man called Geoff Lawton who does permaculture and did a few videos over a couple of years called "Greening The Desert". It's available on youtube and his website called .

    * Raised beds. With the soil here either not good, or non existent, the only fast option I had was raised beds. I used hardwood as the heat of summer would mean metal would just get unbearably hot and help to kill plants. If necessary you can put a layer of chicken wire under the beds so critters can't eat / dig up through the bottom.

    *Covers for the beds/ trees. This has been a long term project that I have been completing for the past 2 years. The birds here are crazy bad.  We literally get nothing if it's not covered...not even greens. Raised beds now all have hoops on them with exclusion netting. It's not cheap but I see it as an investment. It's also dramatically reduced my levels of frustration as I was getting no benefit for my input, and I've been gardening here for 2 decades now - the birds have become more problematic the more I planted.

    * Shade cloth. If the trees aren't coping so they can't provide shade, I have found shade cloth or something else to provide shade is needed. In summer I've parked my car in a position to help provide shade in a particular area. I've also used the giant golf umbrellas with a couple of bricks to hold them in place as a quick fix.

    * With the drought we've had over the past year I've not been able to keep the garden watered anywhere near enough as my water tanks just don't provide what is needed. So every time I was turning over a vegie bed I added 50% coconut coir to 50% good quality compost. I ensured it was a thick layer. My watering dropped dramatically. Mulching is still necessary in harsh environments. I use organic sugar cane mulch on the raised beds.

    *If you can do it drip irrigation is the best way to go. That's something I'm hoping to implement in the next phase of gardening. It is meant to save around 70% in water usage and dramatically reduce plant stress as it minimises evaporation = happier plant. For areas I won't be able to get to with a line from a tank, I was thinking of using a 20lt food grade bucket with a drip line attached. Then I only had to fill the bucket and let it slowly flow out. I've not experimented with it etc, just a thought.

    I hope this helps. It would be great to hear how things have been going for you in the garden.

  • Karen
    Karen Posts: 10 ✭✭✭

    Thanks for the input. I am going to start my modified Back to Eden (raised beds) this winter. I want to have them ready for Spring. Growing in clay soil here in Missouri and garden is good some years and other years not so much.

  • SuperC
    SuperC Posts: 916 ✭✭✭✭

    hi. If there is not much rainfall, have you tried hanging up a sheet (of plastic in white or black) that can collect the morning dew? Place a funnel under it so the water can drain into a container or pan with a brick holding it secure in case of a wind. The brick heats up and cools slightly in the evening yet holds some heat so your plants can stay warm. Plant your selected seedlings or established plants around this device leaving plenty of room to move around. Also, place your plants closer together so they can share the morning dew, even if it is a very small amount. Enjoy with love.