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Design with plants in mind.
We are so lucky here in the Southwest. We can enjoy being outside enjoying our yards nearly year-round. Imagine sipping a cold drink, relaxing in your lounge chair under the shade of a large tree while you watch butterflies and hummingbirds visiting the colorful and fragrant flowers growing around you.
Does this sound like your vision of a perfect afternoon in YOUR backyard? It can happen. Of course many of us have tried and tried to create our own oasis without success, right? Most of the problems people have with landscaping in the desert are caused by trying to recreate the Midwest in the Southwest. The plants you grew "back home" just aren't happy here in our salty soils and challenging climate!
Our Sonoran Desert is the most diverse desert in the world with lush plants and a variety of wildlife. We can also use plants from other deserts of the world increasing our plant palette enormously. If you select creatively and wisely you can have plants blooming all year. You can attract butterflies and hummingbirds; have fragrant flowers and foliage; enjoy cut flowers; and celebrate the seasons - all 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.
Here are some simple tips for success.
- Plan and Design to Save Water
Look for ways to install your landscape that will save on energy costs by placing trees on the west and east sides of your home.
Create depressions or swales as you contour your property to 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 be overwatered with the less thirsty cacti and succulents
- 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' tall and wide will never fit into the 3' space between your wall and sidewalk without constant maintenance. Choose a 2' or 3' plant for this area instead. The water conservation office has information on appropriate plants.
- Use Appropriate Turf Areas
Lawns that aren't used, may not be necessary. Limit your amount of grass 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.
- Irrigate Efficiently
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 applying 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
- Use Mulches
- 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.
If you have questions about water use in your landscape, contact the Water Conservation office hotline at (480) 503-6098.
Be sure to take advantage of the FREE landscaping workshops offered by the Town of Gilbert water conservation office.