Unless you live in the desert, I know what you’re thinking. You can grow a garden in the desert?! Yes, yes you can.
There’s actually quite a bit that you can get to grow, and thrive, in a garden in Arizona–even in your yard in the Valley. (Note that Northern Arizona isn’t all desert, so their gardens can probably grow even better!) I think you’ve just got to really learn what you’re working with. The soil in much of Arizona is actually just really hard dirt and often has lots of rocks in it. (You’ll be able to see in the pictures below). We compost a lot of stuff so we’ve been able to pump nutrients into it that way.
We’ve learned that with our garden and where it is (up against a wall on the West side of our house), that we have better luck with some things than others. Like everything else, there’s definitely a season here as well and some times we’ve got very little growing. We’ve gotten to the point where we try to keep herbs as long as we can throughout the year and they all have their own section.
In another section of the garden, we place everything that’s seasonal. The veggies we try to grow all year have their own section as well. This way we aren’t constantly having to re-map out our garden and where to place things. It sure makes it easier on us. The summer is brutal and we try to put shade structures up but we’ve not yet found anything that’s been a clear winner. The monsoon season begins and usually tears down anything we’ve put up. This past summer, we just let it go without shade and the garden actually did okay.
In the past, we’ve grown: spinach, mixed greens, snow peas, peppers, tomatoes, tomatillos, eggplant, carrots, squash, cucumbers, tons of herbs (basil, rosemary, chives, cilantro, mint, oregano), and a ton of other things I can’t recall. Some did amazing and some not so much. In general, we have really good luck with herbs and I normally can’t use it all or even give enough of it away.
My basil plant is literally a basil bush…maybe even a basil tree at this point. It measures at 43″ wide by about 36″ tall and the average basil leaf is about 5″. I’ll be cutting a lot of it down soon and drying it out now that it’s getting cool and it will likely begin to go dormant pretty soon. I’m already pretty stocked up on homemade pesto and dressings. Further down, I discuss an awesome use of our garden ingredients. For now, here are some photos of our garden goodies:
Our eggplant has been really impressive this year as well and oh so good! While I absolutely love my husband’s eggplant parmesan (it’s the first dish he ever made me and it’s a plate of delicious perfection!), we needed other options to use our eggplant. He came up with this amazing eggplant sandwich. If you’re a vegetarian, it’s a really good option. You could even leave the cheese out and make it all veggies if you’re vegan (although I personally feel like the cheese added a necessary texture to the sandwich).
He made this sandwich by slicing the eggplant and then coating all sides of the eggplant in grapeseed oil, salt, and pepper. Then he lightly grilled the eggplant.
Then, layering it like a sandwich and using the eggplant in place of bread, used the following ingredients to build several layers:
- Roasted red bell pepper
- Fresh mozzarella
The amounts you use of each ingredient are really just up to your own preference really. He also made a tomato-based sauce from scratch that included tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper. He threw the ingredients into a blender and presto! Sauce! This sandwich used three ingredients from our Arizona garden: Eggplant, Parsley, and Basil. YUM! It was so light and fresh tasting, and surprisingly really filling. We cut the above sandwich into quarters and could each only eat one quarter of it. Here is a photo after we cut into it:
Do you have a garden in a desert? What do you grow and have good luck with? Do you have a favorite dish you make from your garden ingredients? I’d love to hear what you’re whipping up from your garden!
Enjoy the weekend and happy gardening!