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E A R T H - F R I E N D L Y G A R D E N I N G
Go Native with Xeriscape!
by Cathy Rymer,
Master Gardener, Water Conservation Specialist, Town of Gilbert
We are so lucky here in the Southwest. We can
enjoy being outside in our yards nearly year-round. Imagine relaxing in your
lounge chair under the shade of a large tree, sipping a refreshing drink while
you watch butterflies and hummingbirds visit the colorful and fragrant flowers
in your landscape. This is the vision most of us have of a perfect afternoon in
our backyards, right?
If you have been unsuccessful trying to create your own oasis, you're not alone.
Trying to re-create the Midwest here in the Southwest can be very frustrating.
The rules here are different, and the plants you grew "back home" just aren't
happy here in our salty soils and challenging climate!
But don't give up! Our Sonoran Desert is the most diverse desert anywhere, with
lush plants and a variety of wildlife. Desert plants from around the world can
be incorporated into our landscapes, creating a variety of colors, textures,
forms, and even fragrances. With a little planning you can have plants blooming
all year that attract butterflies and hummingbirds. You can celebrate the
seasons with fragrant flowers and colorful foliage, even bringing some indoors
as cut flowers. All this can be accomplished by using drought-tolerant plants!
Using native and desert-adapted plants just makes sense. Plus, you can help
conserve our most precious natural resource in the process. It's all part of
the technique know as Xeriscape. Here are some simple tips for success.
DESIGN TO SAVE ENERGY AND WATER
Save on energy costs by placing trees
on the west and east sides of your home.
As you contour your property, create depressions or swales that capture
rainwater. Trees and shrubs located near theses areas will benefit from the
moisture, and you won't need to water as often.
Group plants with similar water needs. Put them on the same irrigation line if
possible. This way, moderate water users won't overwater less thirsty cacti and
CHOOSE APPROPRIATE PLANTS
There are hundreds of colorful, attractive
or fragrant plants that are also desert-adapted. These plants are happy in our
salty soils and challenging climate.
Put the right plant in the right place. A Texas sage that matures to 6 feet in
height by 6 feet in width will never fit into the 3-foot space between your wall
and sidewalk without constant maintenance. Choose a 2- or 3-foot plant for this
area instead. You can get more information about appropriate plants by
contacting the Cooperative Extension or your local water conservation office.
USE APPROPRIATE TURF AREAS
Lawns that aren't used may not be
necessary. Limit grassy areas to places where children and pets play, or areas
that are used for outdoor recreation. If the only time you walk on your grass
is when you mow it, you probably don't need it.
Water only as much as necessary. Most plants
die from improper watering, not diseases or insect damage. It is always better
to water deeply and infrequently than to apply a little water every day.
Adjust your irrigation schedule periodically according to the seasons. Operate
your system in the early morning hours. This way you are more likely to notice
water spraying from missing emitters or running down the driveway or road.
PREPARE YOUR SOIL
Loosen soil with a spade or shovel to help
compacted areas. Try amendments like gypsum to free salts so that they can be
flushed down into the soil, away from tender roots.
Organic or inorganic mulches applied on top of the soil
acts like an insulator, and will help reduce evaporation and keep soils cooler,
especially in the summer. Don't pile mulches against the trunks of trees or
shrubs; it can suffocate the tissues and lead to decay.
Mulches can effectively reduce weed growth by blocking sunlight. Organic
mulches (mulch, compost, leaves, etc.) will decompose and release nutrients into
MAINTAIN YOUR LANDSCAPE APPROPRIATELY
Prune only when necessary. Over-pruning stresses plants and increases their demands for water. Fertilize only when necessary. Many desert-adapted plants don't need fertilizers. Overfertilizing can lead to excessive plant growth and higher water consumption. Provide adequate irrigation by not over or under watering.
Maricopa County Master Gardener Volunteer Information
Last Updated October 4, 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 Maricopaemail@example.com 4341 E. Broadway Road, Phoenix, AZ 85040,
Voice: (602) 470-8086 ext. 301, Fax (602) 470-8092