black thumb or just doint it all wrong in the low desert?

jardinerowaJuly 17, 2010


So I'm just about ready to give up. I feel like no matter how much I want to success it's not possible.

I moved to the low desert area and started all this gardening stuff in middle of June so I know the heat and sun is not on my side. I've tried to start cosmos (I thought they were idiot proof) outside twice once in poor soil and once in OK soil. The first time was in full sun but the second batch is on an east-facing wall where it gets sun till about 1:30pm. They sprout but never get true leaves.

I tried bush beans and they sprouted but they never go from there. I try to give them as much shade as possible but the only thing that works practically is 100% shade or everything fries instantly. I had eggplants that sprouted and I KNOW they love the heat but then they got a whitefly infection. I think I got rid of them but they really aren't growing that fast at all.

Also, I have gazanias in a clay pot and it just feels like I'm doing too much trying to keep them alive. they occasionally bloom now but the blooms are pathetically small and hardly visible. The leaves occasionally have bugs with black dust specks under them (aphids and their excrement?) and I've blasted them and use insecticidal soap and while I think I control them, the plants struggle.

I just want to know, is it the heat and time of year that is causing me so many problems? Or am I just a horrid gardener and/or missing a basic step in all this? I know that it's better to go into the summer with established plants but the plants I've mentioned are known to love the heat so I get the problem.

Thanks for listening to my vent everyone!


P.S. Up to this point, I've just been doing container gardening.

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What part of town are you in?

    Bookmark   July 17, 2010 at 9:44PM
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Actually, I'm in the Imperial Valley in CA which is similar..the only thing is we don't have the monsoons like you have.


    Bookmark   July 17, 2010 at 10:59PM
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MaryMcP Zone 8b - Phx AZ

I have pretty much givn up on container gardening in the desert. As you have experienced, it's just too hard to keep anything alive in a container, especially clay, which dries out quickly. I bring any plants that I want to 'over-summer' into the house.

Although the plants you mention do like the heat, I believe everything needs to be estalished *before* summer hits. Someone told me that direct sowing flower seeds in the fall works better than sowing in spring, which is what I did this year. NOTHING came up. I'll try fall this time.

You may want to look that the concept of using ollas to keep your containers better watered. It's an interesting idea and used effectively in low desert environments in developing countries. Poor folks who can't use irrigation for example. I find the clay wine-keepers at Goodwill and Savers and they work well althogh you need to locate clay saucers to close off the top.

If you Google olla there's lots of good info out there.

Good luck, I hope this helps somewhat.

Here is a link that might be useful: Olla Gardening Technique

    Bookmark   July 18, 2010 at 9:30AM
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mangledmind(AZ 9B)

What Zone is Imperial Valley? Zone 9, never mind.

Check with the county extension office in Imperial, El Centro, San Diego or Yuma they all should have a copy of the planting schedules for veggies, flowers and other plants. Or you could just follow our planting schedule for Zone 9 which is almost identical.

And marymcp, thanks for the link, I had seen something similar in a news report about India or Africa around there somewhere. Also used the same technique to make ICE in the desert, during the SUMMER :)

Also found this :

Here is a link that might be useful: Vegetable Planting Schedule for Maricopa County - Zone 9

    Bookmark   July 18, 2010 at 2:28PM
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I lived in El Centro for a few years when I was growing up. You asked if anything will grow there. All I can say is; have you seen all the fields of corn, asparagus, melons and lettuce growing all around you?

Here are the two best videos I have seen online about growing in a hot climate.

Home Vegetable Gardening Part I

Home Vegetable Gardening Part II

They are long and detailed and you should be prepared to take notes.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2010 at 3:30PM
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marymcp, mangledmind, and thisisme, Thanks SO much for the links, it's JUST what I was looking for.

I am looking forward to Aug/Sept to start growing stuff with hopefully more success as I guess me going against the hot desert summer sun is a losing battle, one I'll always lose!

I am still hoping my eggplants make it as they are slowly still coming out with leaves. I've had whiteflies though. I ran out of insecticidal soap and made my own, hope I don't burn the plants!

I'm also thinking it's possible to overwater containers in the desert especially if they are in the shade most of the day.

Thanks again for all the great information and the idea of Olla gardening is fascinating!


    Bookmark   July 18, 2010 at 9:03PM
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softmentor(z9/sunset13 CA desert)

thisisme said "I lived in El Centro for a few years when I was growing up. You asked if anything will grow there. All I can say is; have you seen all the fields of corn, asparagus, melons and lettuce growing all around you?"
Yeeeaa, buuut.... look around in July and you won't see ANY of that. Check again this winter.
trying to set out started plants right now is pretty much a fantasy. You can start "summer" season vegies from seed Aug 15 - Sept 15: melon, summer squash and such. Most things will need to wait until Sept 15 or later.
I checked out the Maricopa County schedule and it's close but don't figure on planting anything in July. Most things listed for March or April can be planted 4 to 6 weeks earlier. Yuma, Imperial and my area, Coachella Valley, are hotter and different that Phoenix. I know you Phoenix folks don't think so, but, for instance, Deglet Noor dates will not ripen in Phoenix because it's not hot enough.
Tip on tomatoes, start them from seed in October, make sure to protect them from frost this winter, and you will have vines ready to set as soon as the temp gets right in February and have loads of tomatoes. Wait till Jan or Feb to plant and by the time the vines are ready, it's getting to hot to see very much crop.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2010 at 11:27PM
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gemfire(z9/10 AZ)

Try Armenian Cucumbers and Asian Longbeans, they will grow on a trellis (large trellis) and they love the heat. I planted an Armenian Cucumber the first part of May and it didn't take off until we hit Triple digits, the hotter it gets the more it grows... Getting things established before the heat hits is part of it, also mulch everything well as this helps keep the roots cool and moist.


    Bookmark   July 19, 2010 at 7:26PM
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