Planting a Southwest Garden

Written by April Reinhardt (last updated April 11, 2022)


If you are a gardener and live in the southwest United States, then you probably subscribe to the guidelines of the Sunset Zones, rather than the USDA Zones. The Sunset Zones map indicates zones 10, 11, 12, and 13 comprise areas from California to New Mexico, and are termed the Southwest Desert Zone.

While planting a garden in the desert zones proves challenging, it is possible to grow plants and vegetables successfully. Southwest gardeners have the advantage of warm weather with an extra long growing season. In fact, most southwest zones have two growing seasons; one in spring and another in fall, and usually no freezing temperatures. Follow these guidelines when planting a southwest garden:

  • Enrich your soil with moist compost and organic dirt. Since soil can most times be poor in arid climates, the more moisture you can add, the better your plants will grow.
  • Plan what plants you will grow, when you will grow them, and where. Talk with local gardeners to determine which plants grow best in your area. When you buy plants from catalogs, make sure that they are hardy for your zone.
  • While plants germinate, they need extra water in southwest gardens. Keep the soil moist with a fine spray attachment on your garden hose, and regular watering trips. Since there is little rainfall, sprinkle your plants daily.
  • Southwest soil is full of sand, rocks, and debris. Before planting, make sure that you rake the soil free of that debris. While raking, you may discover that you hit rock or limestone. Invest in a good tiller to break through to the dirt below.
  • If limestone or rock makes it impossible to plant directly into the ground, think about using the method of raised bed gardening, or container gardening inside your home.
  • To keep weeds at bay, reduce soil temperature, and conserve soil water, use plenty of mulch so that your garden won't dry out.

Since southwest gardeners have the benefit of having two planting seasons, take advantage of that fact and plant cool-season flowers and vegetables in the fall. Flowers that grow well during southwest autumns are snapdragons, pansies, and sweet peas. Vegetables grow very well in the southwest during autumn and some of the best cool-season vegetables to grow are potatoes, lettuce, carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower, to name just a few.

Don't overlook the fact that tropical plants and trees grow well in the southwest, as well as cacti.

Author Bio

April Reinhardt

An admin­istrator for a mutual fund man­age­ment firm, April deals with the writ­ten word daily. She loves to write and plans to author a memoir in the near future. April attend­ed More­head State Uni­ver­sity to pursue a BA degree in Ele­men­tary Edu­ca­tion. ...


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2013-04-22 13:09:35


I am a new full=time resident in Casa Grande Area, and have question. I plant pansies, geraniums, lobelia, and other annuals before Christmas and cover them during cold spells, and to keep rabbits away at nite....they don't grow well until march....should I wait and NOT plant until February? Also, do these annuals bloom all summer or do I replant for fall???? if so, when??? know it gets very hot, just would like flowers in my bed, all summer somehow.....??? ideas????


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