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The high desert is "hard mode" gardening -- what grows well for you?

 
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For those not familiar with the high desert, here’s my lazy crash course. The high desert is a desert at high altitude, the stereotypical deserts talked about are low deserts. In the high desert we have the sand, we have the hot days, but our nights can drop by up to 50 degrees. The days have no atmosphere to protect plants from harsh uv rays that burn the leaves. The winters stock in with bitter cold snow. We have lots of wind. Rain is scarce. The native foliage consists mostly of juniper and sage. The earth has nearly zero top soil, if not zero. The animals are still hungry, and the bugs need places to do their things also, guess where they congregate. The growing season is 3 months if we get lucky. This years last frost was June 30th. With all these things against us, it is gardening at an extreme. It’s hard mode. Please discuss your failures or successes in the high desert so we can all learn together. What has grown well for you?  
 
Jas Foley
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Plants that are edible and do decent in this climate are rhubarb, strawberries, stone fruits (peaches and nectarines) though mine haven’t yet put off fruit, they seem to be doing well, root vegetables such as beets, onions, carrots and garlic, kale, lettuce, broccoli, sunflowers. If I think of more I’ll post them. I’m not a fan of using plastic covers for my plants, so currently I am stock piling blankets for fall and thereafter. I got decent germination rates from my Siberian pea shrubs, black and honey locusts, but I won’t know how they over winter until next year. My prickly pear cacti have yet to grow since last year. I will be messing with more straw bales this next year for wind breaks and three sided beds with mini swales and a berm on the south side, all sizes to be covered with blankets that will be folded and left on the north edge for quick coverage. For animal pests last year I revamped my fencing, but my roommate has yet to learn how to shut gates behind him, so they’ve done little good. For insect pests I’ve built rock cribs to be inhabited by lizards, though the mice love them too. Southwest medium sized berms should be implemented here and planted heavily with perrenials that can add leaves to the sand, since most of our wind comes from that direction. Temporary wind barriers could be a heavy saturation of sun flowers in a on the west side of the berms, stalks could be used for mulch afterwards. Just thoughts
 
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Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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I live in a basin and range high desert. The basins are characterized by silty soil. The ranges are characterized by bedrock close to the surface. Most of my food production happens in the basins with irrigation that is captured from the ranges during spring snow-melt.

High elevation and low humidity means intense sunlight during the day, and intense radiant cooling at night. The September monsoons trigger frost, so warm weather crops are essentially done by the time the fall monsoons start. I couldn't depend on seeds grown in warmer, moister, lower elevation locations, so I ended up growing only my own varieties which have been aggressively selected by the weather, bugs, soils, and farmer, to thrive on my farm. One area in which I am focusing a lot of attention is on winter-hardy vegetables that can grow during frosty weather from September to May. That's our wet season, even if 5 of those months the crops are covered by snow. Some things still grow, even under the snow.    
 
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