How to Grow a Healthy Desert Garden 


Easy tips for planting, watering and maintaining your garden year-round. 

As a certified sustainable building advisor, Jo Miller knows how valuable a commodity water is, especially in Arizona. The former environmental program manager for the city of Glendale, where she managed the city’s award-winning conservation and sustainability programs, Miller offers some insights on the best way to maintain a healthy garden while maximizing your water efficiency.

Go Deep

“The number one tip to reduce water usage in a home garden in Arizona is understanding how important it is to water less often, but for a longer duration when you do water. That helps to ensure that the entire root zone receives water. To find more details, interactive plant watering guides for our region can be found online at”

Tool Time

“Whether you are using basin watering or drip irrigation, the best tool to measure how deep the water is going is to use a soil probe. Alternatives include a sharpened piece of rebar or a screwdriver. In general, vegetable gardens do best when water soaks in 6 to 10 inches.” 

Proper Picks

“In general, we have very short planting windows in Arizona for vegetables. It is good to follow a regional vegetable planting guide to make sure you are planting at the right time of the year. Vegetables planted at the wrong times will often be water wasted, as the vegetable plants may not survive.” 

More timing details for everything from artichokes to turnips are available in the Vegetable Planting Calendar for Maricopa County at

Timing is Everything

“The planting calendar I mentioned above will also provide a good list of vegetables that do well in a desert vegetable garden. In general, most vegetables need the same schedule and amount of water as a lawn needs. Fall/winter vegetable gardens tend to do well. That’s when watering needs and frequency of watering is significantly lower.”

NOTE: You might seek extra advice from the city you live in to best manage your water usage. For example, Scottsdale Water will send a qualified staff member to your house once a year to walk the property and give detailed water savings tips, including teaching you how to program your irrigation system and water properly. It’s estimated that such a home check can save you up to 4,000 gallons of water each month. Scottsdale also offers a grass removal rebate program; you get $2 per square foot of grass removed, up to a total of $5,000 per property. But in place of the grass you must install approved desert-friendly landscape, and that must pre-approved by the Scottsdale Water conservation office before any grass is removed from the property.

This story appeared in the AZ Foothills Home & Design, Best Places to Live issue. Read the full issue here.

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