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Master Gardener Journal  

F R O M   M E   T O   Y O U

Earth-Friendly Desert Gardening: Coming to a Bookstore Near You!

by Lucy K. Bradley,
Extension Agent, Urban Horticulture

She's done it again! That amazing Cathy Cromell, along with partners Jo Miller and myself, illustrator Janice Austin, and an outstanding team of reviewers has produced an exciting new book for Master Gardener Press. With tremendous financial and moral support from the Arizona Community Tree Council, Earth-Friendly Desert Gardening will arrive in bookstores any day.

Water shortages, air pollution, overflowing landfills, and energy blackouts make news daily. However, it is possible to have an "Earth-Friendly" backyard that saves on water and energy consumption; reduces allergens and green waste; and at the same time attracts native wildlife and provides your family with a bountiful harvest. All that's needed is a commitment to the environment and some basic information. Earth-Friendly Desert Gardening provides strategies in six areas to help you manage your yard harmoniously with nature:

As energy prices escalate, we become more concerned about how to conserve. Two-thirds of household energy use is for heating and cooling. We can reduce this by up to 60% by selecting the right plants and placing them appropriately in the landscape. Even better, these same principles of energy efficiency can extend the period we are able to enjoy our outdoor living areas.

Landscapes guzzle 1/3 to 1/2 of all household water. We can reduce water consumption by up to 50 percent by careful planning, plant selection, and plant maintenance.

Each person in Arizona generates an average of 5.9 pounds of solid waste daily, sending over 2000 pounds per year to the landfills. More than 30% of this material is organic matter that we could reuse as compost and mulch in our gardens and landscapes. This would reduce the amount of green waste by 600 pounds per person per year.

In communities, urban water run-off accounts for the majority of pollution that does not come from a specific industrial source. Overused and/or misapplied pesticides and fertilizers in home landscapes are a primary cause. Selection of well-adapted plants, effective pest management, and appropriate care of plants can reduce dependence on fertilizers and pesticides.

Wild habitat areas around cities and smaller communities are being converted into housing and commercial properties, displacing native plants, animals, and insects. Choosing native plants can create a haven for butterflies, birds, lizards, and other animals.

Many children, when asked where carrots come from, will reply "the grocery store." They have no idea the vegetable was once the root of a plant. Many varieties of produce available in local markets are grown thousands of miles away. To ensure that they are in pristine shape for the consumer, they're bred with the priority of increased shelf life rather than improved flavor or increased nutritional value. By choosing to grow some of our own food we can help children and neighbors develop a connection to food as a plant, rather than a store package. We can reduce the amount of resources spent on packaging, storing, and shipping produce by harvesting our own salad for dinner. Making the commitment to eat produce grown on our property will profoundly impact our decisions on how we steward the land.

In addition to the global benefits outlined above, there are personal benefits to earth-friendly gardening:
  • Save Money-Earth-friendly desert gardening can generate financial savings on electric bills and water bills. You will also spend less on fertilizers, pesticides, and yard maintenance.
  • Save Time-Reduce the amount of time spent pruning, mowing, fertilizing, and managing pest problems.
  • Grow in Harmony-Make decisions that are healthy for you, your family and pets, your plants, birds and other wildlife that visit your yard, as well as your community.
  • Grow Your Own Food-Enjoy fresh homegrown produce.
Shipping dates aren't finalized yet, but Earth-Friendly Desert Gardening will be available at major bookstores or directly from Cooperative Extension, 4341 E. Broadway Road, Phoenix, AZ 85040. The cover price will be $14.95 ($15.78 including tax for Arizona residents) if purchased at Extension offices. You'll need to add $2.75 for shipping if you want it mailed to you. (Checks should be made out to the University of Arizona). Call 602/470-8086 for further details.

Maricopa County Master Gardener Volunteer Information
Last Updated January 25, 2003
Author: Lucy K. Bradley, Extension Agent Urban Horticulture, University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, Maricopa County
© 1997 The University of Arizona, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cooperative Extension in Maricopa County
Comments to 4341 E. Broadway Road, Phoenix, AZ 85040,
Voice: (602) 470-8086 ext. 301, Fax (602) 470-8092