How to Grow Vegetables in the Southwest

The one problem many vegetable gardeners face in most areas of the country is finding a site on their property that gets at least 6 hours of sunlight a day. In the southwest, the sun presents an opposite problem: how to keep your vegetables from getting too much sun. This article discusses ways you can grow a successful vegetable crop in the arid and mountainous southwest.


  1. Image titled Grow Vegetables in the Southwest Step 1
    Start you seeds indoors in January or February. That way, they will be tall and strong enough to transplant outdoors in the spring.
  2. Image titled Grow Vegetables in the Southwest Step 2
    Harden (acclimate) your transplants for several weeks before transferring them your garden.
    • Let the transplants sit outside in a protected spot for several hours every day. The tender seedlings need time to adjust to stronger sunlight, cooler nights and less water.
  3. Image titled Grow Vegetables in the Southwest Step 3
    Protect your seedlings after you have put them in the ground. Spring weather is unpredictable and can include high winds, below normal temperatures and late snowfall:
    • Fill inner tubes with water and put your transplants in the middle of the inner tube. The water will retain heat from the sun and release the heat during the evening. Remove the inner tube when the plants can withstand cooler night temperatures.
    • Cut the bottoms off of large plastic jugs and push the containers into the soil over your transplants. Make sure the jugs are deep enough into the soil that they don’t blow away. Remove the jug’s cap to increase air circulation. Insert the container over your plant at nightfall and remove it during the day.
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    Consider constructing simple greenhouse that you can use year-round. The simplest type is made with wire loops and covered with clear plastic. The plastic needs to be anchored down and at least one end of the structure has to allow some air into the greenhouse. Even with ventilation, the soil in a southwest greenhouse could get too hot unless you mulch your plants with straw or another type of composting material.


  • The most important thing you can do to assist your transplants is to gradually expose them to your unprotected garden.
  • If you are a novice gardener, you might want to give yourself an edge and begin your vegetable garden with some of the most popular crops in the southwest:
    • Potatoes
    • Garlic
    • Tomatoes
    • Onions
    • Carrots
    • Summer squash
    • Peas
    • Sweet peppers
  • Use shade cloths to protect your vegetables from the intense mid-summer heat. You can also construct a simple Ramada (a shade structure made of poles and branches) to provide partial shade.
  • If at all possible, use a drip irrigation system so that you don’t have to water every day—or twice a day during intensely hot periods. If you don’t have a soaker hose, you can pierce holes in a garden hose with an ice pick. Snake the soaker hose around your plants so that everything in the garden receives water when the hose is turned on.


  • It’s a good idea to keep yourself apprised of the weather during the growing season. The southwest is prone to long dry spells, high winds and very chilly nights. You may at times have to offer special protection to the plants in your garden if adverse weather is forecast.
  • If bears are a problem in your area, do not put vegetable and fruit scraps into your compost pile.
  • Don’t put whole tumbleweeds into your compost pile because they take a very long time to decompose; put them through a wood chipper first.
  • Tall plants provide shade for snakes on a hot day. You can help avoid close encounters by making your presence known when you approach your garden; stomp your feet or bang a shovel on the ground. The vibrations will usually send a snake scurrying off to find a more peaceful napping place.

Things You’ll Need

  • Seeds or transplants
  • Inner tubes (optional)
  • Plastic jugs (optional)
  • Shade cloths or shade structures

Article Info

Categories: Growing Vegetables