About the Journal
From Me to You
Calendar of Events
Things to Expect & Do
Children Know Once
A New Way of
Of Blue Skies and
Grilled Corn in
Going to Bat for Bats
The Prickly Pear:
Handle with Care!
Birds in the Garden
Watering & Plant Care
Tips for Summer
Summers Past Farms
Hot Off The Press
B E T T E R L A N D S C A P E D E S I G N
by Sandy Turico,
We see it in the newspaper headlines and hear it on the evening news...severe
drought conditions, groundwater and soil contamination, rising levels of
pollutants. As if that isn't troublesome enough our natural resources are in
jeopardy; explosive population growth in Maricopa County along with the lack of
substantial precipitation has many wondering how long we will have an adequate
supply of water.
That's the bad news...the good news is that the manner in which we design and
maintain our home landscapes can make a significant difference.
Establishing and maintaining a verdant landscape in the desert and being
environmentally responsible can go hand in hand. Developing an earth-friendly
plan, choosing appropriate plants, irrigating efficiently, and limiting
fertilizer and chemical use are the keys to responsible landscaping.
Whether landscaping a new home, renovating your current
landscape or making minor changes in your yard, develop a design that will have
a minimum impact on the environment. Think carefully about how you use your
yard. Be creative in finding ways to limit your water use.
Hardscape features such as patios, fireplaces and pathways can make your
landscape more livable-and they don't need to be watered!
Maintaining a lawn requires a tremendous amount of water and fertilizer. Some
will argue that a lawn is necessary for those with small children or pets. If
you must have one, consider limiting its size and make certain your sprinklers
are directed at the lawn so you aren't irrigating your patio or sidewalk.
Pools are high priority items in our hot desert climate, but they involve using
a considerable quantity of water and chemicals. A pool cover minimizes water
evaporation and chemical requirements. If you love the idea of having a water
feature in your yard, there are many attractive alternatives such as fountains
Plan for a "mini-oasis" if you love growing roses or other plants with high
water requirements. Plant them near patios and seating areas where you can
Select native and desert-adapted vegetation. These plants
have evolved in ways that allow them to thrive in our arid climate. Small,
narrow leaves, light green or gray foliage, and other leaf modifications are
just a few ways that these unique plants conserve moisture. They survive in
their natural habitat with little water and low humidity, and they tolerate the
alkalinity present in the desert soil.
Take time to learn about the plants available in our area. Visit your local
botanical garden, attend landscape classes, get on the Internet, and take
advantage of the resources at your Cooperative Extension office or local
library. Low-water plants are available in every size shape and color
imaginable. Look around and you're sure to find some favorites.
Layer your plantings. Use trees, shrubs and groundcovers in your plan. Many
smaller shrubs and groundcovers will benefit from the shade provided by larger
plants and trees.
Consider using plants to shade some of your paved areas. Paving materials
absorb then release heat, which can increase the water requirements of nearby
Don't plant more than you can care for. It's tempting to stroll through a
nursery and fall in love with every plant you see, but if you don't have time to
properly maintain your landscape, you will waste water and energy.
It is estimated that over 60 percent of the water used by
the average homeowner goes for landscape irrigation. Conserving water does not
mean resigning yourself to a yard full of rocks, boulders and a few cacti. A
flourishing landscape is attainable with careful planning.
- Irrigation equipment
landscape can be accomplished through flood irrigation, sprinklers, bubblers, or
drip irrigation. A drip system is a very practical method to keep your
plantings in tiptop shape. Since water is applied exactly where it is needed in
a slow trickle, evaporation and runoff are greatly reduced.
Using an automatic control box to regulate your irrigation is an efficient way
to get the job done. Adjust your watering schedule seasonally. Duration of the
irrigation should not change, only the interval between irrigations.
Group plants with similar water requirements into separate zones in your system.
No matter what type of irrigation you use, remember to check it periodically.
Look for leaks in the system, broken sprinkler heads and plugged emitters.
- Watering schedule
Knowing when and
how long to irrigate is not an exact science. Water applied deeply and
infrequently to the entire root zone will result in stronger, healthier plants
capable of withstanding our searing summer heat. A consequence of irrigating
too frequently is weak roots that are unable to absorb nutrients.
Water trees to a depth of 36 inches; shrubs to 24 inches; groundcovers, cacti,
and annuals to 12 inches; and lawns to 10 inches. Use a soil probe to determine
how deep the water is penetrating. The type of soil you have determines how
fast water is absorbed and how far it spreads.
More plants suffer from overwatering than under-watering. Indications of water
stress are wilted, curled, or drooping foliage; yellowed older leaves that drop;
and dead stems or branches. Symptoms of excess irrigation include brittle
leaves that remain on the plant; wilted shoots; soft, smelly tissue; and algae
or mushrooms present in the area.
Mulching your landscape plants will decrease the amount of water needed to
sustain them. Three to four inches of rock mulch or organic mulch such as
compost, leaves, grass clippings, branches, or pine needles will cool the soil,
reducing water loss from evaporation and limiting the growth of weeds that
compete for water. Using organic mulch has the added benefit of improving soil
Using native plants will greatly reduce or eliminate the need for fertilizers.
The desert produces little organic matter, and these plants have survived in the
wild without soil amendments for eons. A minimum amount of fertilizer can be
used to give the landscape a boost, but is not usually necessary.
The foliage color of plants is not necessarily indicative of the need for
fertilizer. Plant diseases, insects and weather conditions can cause abnormal
leaf color. Use a soil-testing kit when you are in doubt.
Too much fertilizer will stimulate excessive growth and promote the occurrence
of disease and pest damage. Overgrowth leads to pruning, which adds unnecessary
yard waste to our landfills.
A plant cannot tell the difference between organic and synthetic fertilizers.
However, organic fertilizers such as manure, compost, fish emulsion, and bone
meal are slow release, lasting over a longer period of time. They are less apt
to burn plants and can actually improve soil conditions.
By definition, pesticides include insecticides as well as herbicides. While it
is sometimes necessary to resort to chemical use, it is easy to become dependent
on them. The inherent danger in the overuse and inappropriate application of
pesticides is the poisoning of our natural resources and possible disruption in
the balance that normally exists in nature. Decide how severe a problem is and
how much damage you are willing to tolerate. Use chemicals as a last resort.
Read the labels...they're there for a reason! Chemicals are toxic. Safe use
depends on following the directions and heeding the precautions on the label.
Apply the correct amounts...more is definitely not better.
Minimize insecticide "drift" by applying the chemicals on a windless day.
Store chemicals in a cool, dry, well-ventilated place. It is imperative that
these toxic materials are locked away from children and pets.
Always keep chemicals in their original, labeled containers.
Make sure bags or containers are not damaged or leaking.
Landscaping responsibly should be a top priority
for the homeowner. Show your appreciation for our beautiful desert environment
by protecting it!
Follow Integrated Pest Management or IPM guidelines. Monitor the affected plant
to determine what type of damage is being done. Verify that it is an insect
causing the problem and identify the pest. Decide if any action is necessary.
If you choose to correct the problem, use the least toxic solution possible.
According to the Master Gardener manual, "We generally associate insects with
crop loss or disease transmission, but only a small number of insect species
(less than 3 percent) are considered to be pests of humans, animals, crops, or
fiber. Most insects are either outwardly beneficial or harmless." Therefore,
the sensible solution is to control pests without harming other insects.
Non-toxic solutions include mechanical traps and barriers, water and soap
sprays, and removing and destroying large insects by hand. Home remedies such
as hot peppers, garlic and herbal mixtures may be helpful.
Another option is biological controls...predators, parasites, and diseases.
Herbicides kill vegetation-both landscape plants and weeds-so utilize these
chemicals with caution.
Hand pulling or hoeing weeds is a tedious yet effective means of control. Make
sure you remove the weeds before they go to seed.
Boiling water and vinegar sprays are home remedies worth trying.
Never use soil sterilants in a landscape setting. In addition to eliminating
plant growth, they remain in the soil for long periods of time and may spread
through the soil and kill desirable plants.
"On every stem, on every leaf, ...and at the root
of everything that grew, was a professional specialist in the shape of grub,
caterpillar, aphis, or other expert, whose business it was to devour that
--Oliver Wendell Holmes
Photos courtesy of Candice Sherrill
Maricopa County Master Gardener Volunteer Information
Last Updated May 28, 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,
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