Veggie Gardening in the High Desert




Here we are in the high desert, we have land, we have sunshine, and we can have a huge veggie garden. Be self sufficient, back to nature, all that and more. We plan a ½ acre garden and right next to it we plant 25 fruit trees. We are in heaven or could it be hell??


You have successfully transplanted all your veggie seedlings; they are sitting there so pretty in their perfect rows. A backbreaking day, all that work! The next morning you wake up, get your cup of coffee and run out to admire all your hard work. Ahhhhhhhh! What happened, they are gone, no some are there but not much left of them.   You look out to all the fruit trees that you planted, why are some of them leaning over. Was it that windy last night?? You stop and try to put the fruit tree back up, what, there is nothing left of the roots, they are GONE!


Does this sound a little familiar? Getting a little ahead of yourself without first getting familiar with your surroundings. Do you have bunnies hopping happily around your land, aren’t they cute!! How about all those squirrels, you thought to yourself, why are there so many of them. And the birds, you feed them, why would they turn against you and eat some of those seedlings. And those mounds you have been seeing after planting all those fruit trees, could that be an underground critter that eats roots?


So let us garden successfully and this is how!!


First off, start off small. Build a nice raised garden that is fenced completely around with chicken wire, plus has either wire or netting on top.  And don’t forget to line the bottom of the raised bed with chicken wire. That will keep the gophers out. Build up the soil, start with good topsoil then start amending with good organic material. Try this formula for a 10 x 10 garden.


6 cu. Ft of organic compost. Either what you have composted or you can use a product that Kellogg garden soil makes, Harvest Supreme, it is organic.


1-4# bag of organic blood meal

1-4# bag of organic bone meal

2-2 Cu. Ft. of steer or chicken manure (well composted) I prefer chicken, but I also use a combination of horse/chicken, both are readily available for me.

3-Sprinkle Epsom salts liberally on the top of the soil


Now roto-till all the ingredients into the topsoil. A drip system is really necessary out here, now is the time to install one and put in a timer also, that way when you are away your veggies will be watered.


Now you can plant your veggies. And you can plant fairly close with this type of garden. Right now I have 7 tomato plants in mine plus basil, Kale and chamomile plants. You can also under plant with squash like butternut or acorn.   Also use straw to keep the seedlings from drying out between watering. If you mound the straw around the seedling it also keeps the wind from tearing them up.


Now that you are successful you can build more 10 x 10 gardens, one for corn in the summer and lettuce or kale in the winter. Endless ideas!


Now on to tackle your fruit trees.


When you plant your trees you must line chicken wire in the planting hole. Then put the root ball in and backfill. The chicken wire should be higher then ground level so after you back fill you can close the chicken wire around the trunk. That way the gophers can’t get in between the wire and the trunk and go down to eat the roots.


To keep ground squirrels from eating the fruit, trim all branches up to above 3 feet off the ground. For young trees you can use 4” leach line pipe ( a thin walled pvc pipe) not with holes, but solid. Cut off a 3 foot piece and split in down one side, now put it on the trunk of the tree and it should snap in place. Now the squirrels can’t climb up the trunk.


They come from under the ground, on the ground and from the air. So birds are our next consideration !


There are two ways to look at the fruit tree situation. One idea is to keep your trees trimmed to below 10’, much easier to use bird netting on it, and or build a frame to support the bird netting. The frame is made up of 2” PVC pipe. You will have 4 pieces that will shape the corners and of course cross pieces to attach to the corners. Use PVC elbows on the corners so you can attach the crosspieces. Before you build, put 4 pieces of rebar vertically in the ground on each corner around the tree, this is what will support your PVC frame. Put the corner pieces into the rebar and then put in your crosspieces. Now you can drape the bird netting over the framework and attach the bird netting into the ground by using metal u hooks. Just a warning on the bird netting close to the ground, snakes can get tangled up in it and it is not a good outcome for the snake. You can use shade cloth on the bottom ¼ of the bird netting. That way you aren’t killing USEFUL snakes.


To glue or not to glue, that is up to you. It is more stable if you glue, but of course much easier to put away for the season if you don’t glue.


Now the other way to look at the fruit tree situation, don’t do anything and the birds get the majority and you get a couple of peaches for all your trouble. Or like me, don’t grow them, go to a U-pick orchard and then you don’t have to worry about it :))



I will be up dating this blog periodically through out the growing season. You can ask questions though the comment section and I will do my best to answer them all.


Happy gardening to you all!




Desert Wildflowers

We have quite the show in the desert this year!  Why this year with all the drought we have been suffering with?  Reasons for wildflower germination aren’t an exact science.  The small snow we had in December with cold temps giving way to warm winter tempertures may have caused the wildflowers to germinate.  With no competing grasses they had the desert to themselves.  In my twice daily hikes I have seen, creamcups, desert larkspur, Bigelows Coreopsis, Layia, Bigelows Monkeyflower, Phacelias, Linanthus, Bajadas Lupine, Grape Soda Lupine, Mojave Aster, Tiny Poppy, Parry’s linanthus, Rattlesnake weed, Forget me nots,  Fremont Pincushion, Scale Bud, Desert Dandelion, Brittlebush,  Desert Parsley, Interior Goldenbush, Wallace’s Wooly Daisy, Scale Broom, Fiddleneck, Mojave Suncup, Pale Primrose, Hopsage, Bladder Sage, and Salvia Dorri or purple sage.  These wildflowers are the ones that I can identify there are some out there I have yet to find out what they are.

Scale Bud

Scale Bud

Cream Cup

Cream Cup

Bajada Lupine

Bajada Lupine


Try to enjoy yourselves this year by a walk in the desert.  The newly opened Puma Canyon  in Pinon Hills would be a great place to start.  It was created by Transition Habitat and is a nice place to hike or ride your horse!


For those of you who have started your veggie gardens, just a word about the weather this coming week.  Looks like possible snow showers for elevations above 5000′ on Tuesday night.  I don’t think the temp will get below 32 degrees but just in case I would cover your veggies, with either frost cloth or you can use old nursery containers placed over the plant and cover that with straw.  I am at 4200′ and I think we will be fine.


Next blog will be about veggie gardening and getting your plants ready for summer.


This is my first blog, short but just starting out.  It should get better with time.