A water-efficient, beautiful, and colorful yard? Yes, you can have it all!
Our Sonoran Desert is the most diverse desert in the world with lush plants and a variety of wildlife. If you select wisely you can have plants blooming all year. You can attract butterflies and hummingbirds, have fragrant flowers and foliage, and celebrate the seasons--all by using drought-tolerant plants. Using native and desert-adapted plants just makes sense in our arid climate. Plus, by designing your landscape with the desert in mind, you can help conserve our most precious natural resource--water.
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 (valve) if possible. This way heavier water users won't be watered on the same line as a water-thrifty cacti.
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 tall and wide will never fit into the 3 foot space between your wall and sidewalk without constant pruning. Choose a 2 or 3 foot 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.
- 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
- Desert-adapted plants love our native clay loam soil, so there is no need for soil amendments when planting native and desert-adapted plants. You can loosen the soil with a spade or shovel to help water infiltration in compacted areas. When planting, dig the hole no deeper than the plant's rootball (from the nursery container) but at least 2-5 times wider. A wider hole will help encourage roots to grow out and establish the plant.
- Add compost, wood chips, decomposed granite, or other mulch on your landscaped areas to reduce evaporation from the soil and to keep water at the plants' roots for longer.
- 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 the soil.
Maintain Your Landscape Appropriately
- Prune only when necessary. Over pruning stresses plants and increases their demands for water. Fertilize only when necessary. 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 every spring and fall.