I am a first time gardener and live in Arizona. I've watched my mother's garden of squash and melons but other than that I've only tried carrots, which came out very small and deformed looking which I'm told was because the area I planted them was too rocky...
I hope to expand my tiny knowledge about gardening and reap the benefits of growing my own veggies and plants. I'm not really sure what I should try first with it now being fall and barely cooling down, we are still in the high 90's.
Podgie, I don't have much luck with carrots, either and I don't have any stones in my soil. In my case, I think the problem is root nematodes. There is not a whole lot the average person can do to get rid of them so I don't grow carrots. The easiest winter crops for me are radishes and garlic. Peas are kind of hit-or-miss but maybe that's because my watering practice tends to be erratic. I don't start the winter garden until the summer garden is done, so that means that it usually doesn't get started until December.
For summer crops, squash and chili peppers grow very easily for me. Most of the time (but not this year) beans do well. Tomatoes are kind of so-so, plus I'm limited to growing only nematode-resistant varieties.
For the beginner gardener in any season I would recommend 3 things:
(1) Put the Soil & Compost forum on watch and read it every day.
(2) Build a raised bed. Search "Lasagna Bed".
(3) Go to your county extension agent's office and ask them what you should be growing and how to get a soil test.
Beyond that look for posts by Farmerdill in the Vegetable Garden forum. There are some in the references to Farmerdill this article. He will tell you how to grow beautiful carrots like the purple one's shown in this article.
And remember every mistake is a valuable lesson learned. You are starting out on a wonderful adventure. Buy some seeds and enjoy the journey!
Raised beds are good in every climate. You can install "leaky pipe" and attach a timer to keep the beds watered, without losing a lot of moisture to evaporation.
Raised beds fortified with a lot of compost also are likely to correct for alkaline soil you are likely to have in a dry climate, so you can grow a wider variety of plants than you could in your native soil.
I do not know if this will work for you but it works for me in my clay soil. I hoe dirt up on the plants making hills ever higher. Does great for onions. I have done this in the past and did okay on carrots too. Beats heavy labor of making a raised bed.
I am very much in favor of raised beds for vegetables. Mine are sort of an adaptation of a compost pile built over fall prunings of woody trash. One of the main ingredients is used hay and rabbit poop. I also have a lot of used up potting soil from re-potting plants for my greenhouse that I dump in raised beds.
I think Park has a nematode resistant marigold that can be used to clean up nematode infested soils. It is sort of a wild-type marigold and you plant it the season before you put vegetables in that space.