Master Gardener's guide to
gardening in a hot dry climate
"Fruit Salad" Garden
Lemon trees, lime trees, and
orange trees do not do well in the parts of the desert with
cold winters, for example, Las Vegas. So don't plant an
Improved Meyers lemon or a Nagami Kumquat -- except in a pot
which you can bring indoors in winter. Some citrus trees can
be grown in the low desert, such as Palm Springs and Phoenix
where winters are warm. Consult your local nursery for the
varieties for your area because many citrus trees do not
like very hot weather either and are subject to sunburn.
plums, pomegranates, peaches,
apricots and figs -- they all grow beautifully. Here are
some proven winners.
Apricot trees (Prunus
family) reach 15 to 20 feet in height and have pink or
white blooms in Spring. Varieties that do well in the desert
are: 'Early Gold', 'Blenheim', 'Royal', 'Chinese', 'Tilton',
'Floragold' (a dwarf variety), and 'Newcastle'. Most of
these are self-pollinating and need some winter chill.
Plum trees (Prunus)
reach 10 to 15 feet in height and will need a winter chill
period to produce abundant fruit. Among the best varieties
for our hot, dry climate are two self-pollinators: 'Beauty'
and 'Santa Rosa'. The 'Satsuma'. 'Burbank', 'Howard
Miracle', 'Mariposa' and 'Friar' can be pollinated by the
'Santa Rosa'. There are, of course, the ornamental plums,
but why grow them when you can grow fruit bearing trees!
nucipersica) need to be pruned back severely every
year because the fruit grows only on the first year
growth. Even then you are likely to have a bumper crop
annually. Plant these self-pollinating varieties:
'Goldmine', 'Gower', 'Stanwick', and 'Le Grand' and you
can feed the whole neighborhood!
persica) as well as nectarine trees grow to about 25 feet
high, if left unpruned. Pruning is recommended to keep tree
height to under 12 feet. They will start producing fruit in
about 3 or 4 years and you can place 2 or 3 varieties in one
hole when you plant. Some varieties that do well in the desert
are: 'Desert Gold', 'Early Elberta', 'Bonita', and 'Rio Grande'.
The following are dwarf trees: 'Bonanza II', 'Southern Sweet',
and 'Southern Flame'.
Figs (Ficus carica)
are big leaf trees that grow fast to 15 to 30 feet in height.
They love the heat and do well when planted near a south-facing
wall -- but not too close. Eventually the tree trunk becomes
quite large. Most varieties produce 2 crops a year and, for home
garden use, do not need another fig tree to for pollination. The
best varieties for the desert are: 'Black Mission', 'Kadota' and
grows as a rounded shrub that reaches 8 feet in height
and is self-fruitful. These can make an edible hedge if
you plant them about 4 feet apart. The best variety to
plant is the 'Wonderful'. Pomegranates can take all day
sun and will grow in alkaline soil. Even better,
they do not need a lot of watering.
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