Ten Easy Vegetables & Fruits for Desert Climate of El Paso
(Summer season)

watermelon in desert climate

Believe it or not a number of vegetables and fruits grow in the El Paso gardens and quite easily too if organic gardening and drip irrigation methods are adopted. Out of the many, certain edibles are excellent performers in our hot and dry climate. Even a beginner gardener should not hesitate to try these. Here is a list of 10 heat tolerant easy to grow edibles.

1. Squash and gourds: All varieties of squashes do quite well here. Start with the ones that you love to eat and then experiment with some other new varieties in following years. Common squashes like zucchini, yellow squash and acorn squash are examples of bush plants. Others like calabash squash ( a gourd), ridged squash, bitter gourd are vines. Whether the soil is clay or sand it is always good to amend it with plenty of compost for growing squashes. If the soil is clay make about 8-10 inches high and at-least 2 ft in diameter, soil hill. Make a shallow depression on top of the hill for watering and grow the squash plant there.

2. Hot peppers like Serrano and Jalapeños are very easy to grow in El Paso. They tolerate the summer heat quite well although occasionally if peppers are in direct afternoon sun the fruit may gets sun scalding.

3. Watermelon, A fruit filled with water yet does so well in the dry climate. The plant yield very sweet and delicious fruits in the desert heat. As the weather cools in fall season the growth slows down. After eating a watermelon just bury the seeds in your garden. Soon you will have many seedlings which you can thin out to keep 3-4 plants.

4. Green beans, the various cowpea varieties (black-eye pea/bean) do exceptionally well in El Paso. There are bush and vining plants to chose from. It is best to order bean seeds online if you want a choice of different varieties . If you are not selective about varieties and do not care if it is a bush or a vine then simply sow some organic black-eye peas from the grocery store and soon you will have fresh green beans.

5. Okra is a heat tolerant plant and survives El Paso’s windy climate quite well. Read more about okra in the
weekly highlight section - Okra

6. Rosemary is a very well suited, heat and drought tolerant herb for this region. Grow upright rosemary in front or backyard. It will be not only to flavor your breads and soups but will be beautiful in the landscape.

7. Basil is also an excellent performer and even if you do not have a separate vegetable garden it will fit well in any landscape or patio. Read more about basil in
weekly highlights - basil

8. Pomegranate is well adapted to desert climate. It is also resistant to the root knot nematodes that are quite common in the desert soils. The varieties ‘wonderful’ and ‘sweet pomegranate’ are commonly available in nurseries and are quite delicious. Pomegranate tree can be planted in spring or fall.

9. Malabar spinach. Originally a tropical plant but quite tolerant of our dry, hot climate. In summer not as many greens are available as in winter. Malabar spinach can be a good source of nutritious greens from spring through fall. Read more about it in the
weekly highlight section - ( Malabar spinach)

10. Nopales (prickly pear cactus). Even xeriscape front or backyard can have a delicious edible too. Nopales is enjoyed in a number of ways in traditional mexican cuisine. Since all cacti are slow to grow nopales at times can be expensive in grocery stores. There is no other easier to grow edible, in desert climate, than nopales which is well adapted to drought, heat, soil alkalinity and other harsh elements of the desert.

Whatever you grow, do not forget to mulch your garden well.