Many people welcome the idea of growing fresh fruits and vegetables using the most “natural” means available. This generally means trying to follow organic procedures. New gardeners, or those changing from pesticides and artificial fertilizers to a more organic method, often have many questions about how to use this approach.

In 2002, the Agricultural Marketing Service of the USDA implemented a set of national standards for organic production. These rules ensure that the same practices and definitions are used by all growers in all states throughout the nation. If a farm is to be certified “organic”, it must have had no prohibited substances applied to it for at least three years. While these specific regulations are geared toward commercial producers, the overall principles can be applied to gardens and large agricultural enterprises alike.


Organic gardening or farming does not simply mean avoiding herbicides, fungicides, insecticides and synthetic fertilizers, although this is a crucial part. It is far more than simply replacing one group of pesticides with another. Rather, it is a system of creating an environment that reduces the population of potential pests (insects, diseases or weeds) and promoting plant health to increase resistance to predators and pathogens. This requires that the gardener provide the right soil conditions, select healthy plants, and follow proper cultural practices. It also requires a gardener to “scout” the landscape regularly –checking the garden for pests and addressing problems while they are still manageable.


Organic practices require that the environment be a healthy one. When the environment provides the necessary light, temperature, water, nutrition and adequate space, plants will have a better appearance and they will be more productive. They will also have the resources needed to deal with pests.


Soils in the desert southwest tend to lack organic matter, and have either very slow or very fast drainage. Overly slow drainage may be due to high clay content or to a hard, impermeable layer beneath the surface. This can cause plant roots to be inefficient and even to decay. Extremely fast drainage is typical of high levels of sand. In this case, the soil tends to dry quickly and requires frequent irrigation to meet plant needs.1 Desert soils are frequently quite alkaline because of the large amount of calcium present, which can cause certain essential minerals to be unavailable to plants. The second additions make the soils inhospitable to plants, unless they are native or desert-adapted. Most garden fruits and vegetables are not adapted to desert conditions; they require soils that are richer in nutrients and have enough, but not excessive, water.

For the complete article use the link below.

O'Callaghan, A., and McKie, P. 2004, Creating an Organic Garden in Southern Nevada, Extension, University of Nevada Reno, FS-04-72

Learn more about the author(s)


Also of Interest:

Peach tree
Stone Fruits
YHEP Instructor, Nicole Hansen teaches you all about stone fruits and shows you how to care for stone fruit trees.
Hansen, N. 2020, Extension, University of Nevada, Reno, YouTube Channel
Identification of Common Landscape Pests and Beneficial Organisms in Nevada
Identifying insects and other arthropods, distinguishing those which cause problems from those which benefit our environment, is important for Master Gardeners, landscape professionals and residential customers. Publication assists gardeners in recognizing pests, the damage they ...
Johnson, W. S., Graham, J., and Strom, S. 2006, University of Nevada, Reno Extension SP-06-08
The Date Palm in Southern Nevada
The true date palm, Phoenix dactylifera grows in the desert region and is one of the most popular landscape plants for homes and is uniquely adapted for fruit production and ornamental purposes. This publication focuses on growing the date palm in home and commercial landscapes a...
Robinson, M. L., Brown, B., and Williams, C. F. 2002, Extension, University of Nevada Reno, SP-02-12
Open pomegranates
Growing Pomegranates in Southern Nevada
Pomegranates are a delicious fruit that grows well in the Mojave Desert. This publication gives needed guidance to people who wish to grow their own.
Crites, A. et al. 2004, Extension, University of Nevada, Reno
Getting Started with Backyard Fruit Trees in Northern Nevada
Practical advice for getting started with backyard fruit trees, including selection tips, pruning tips, chill requirements and lists of fruit trees varieties that grow well in northern Nevada, including apple, pear, cherry, plum, peach and apricot varieties.
Kratsch, H. and Hanson Mazet, W. 2014, Extension, University of Nevada, Reno, Fact Sheet 14-14

Associated Programs

pesticide traing cb

Pesticide Safety Education Program

Extension’s Pesticide Safety Education Program provides web-based training for pesticide applicators seeking to apply restricted and general use pesticides safely, properly and according to the law. Pesticide licensure and certification is administered by the Nevada Department of Agriculture.

Master Gardener taking grape inspection notes on a clipboard

Research Center & Demonstration Orchard

Researching new varieties of fruit producing trees, vines and other plant materials in sustainable ways for the Mojave Desert climate.

master gardeners in garden

Master Gardeners of Washoe County

Master Gardeners provide free, research-based horticulture information to Nevadans.