This blog is about growing tropical-looking plants in the Phoenix, Arizona area

July 26, 2018

Behind the scenes at the Tropical Paradise

I've designed my garden to guide people to enjoy its beauty. There are places to walk, places to stand, places to sit. I dislike gardens that have hoses running across them all of the time, or junk piled up that people have to walk around. That's just poor design. And the solution for that is to do "behind the scenes" stuff. I'll show you around in places that are meant to remain hidden, but are essential.

Let's go to the side yard, where the garbage can is. I go there every day, as does my dog, and there's where I put things that are waiting to be planted, or in some way moved. I also store my dog's pooper scooper there, and a shovel. You can also see a hose that I have that wraps back into the space but I can bring into the edge of the garden and use as needed. Water is critical for a garden, but I just hate to see hoses lying around that people have to step over. The hose is in the side yard, well away from where people walk.

I have a couple of stray pieces of flagstone that I haven't found a use for yet, and some pots sitting on an old lawn chair that I really do need to set out for loose trash day.

Water sprayer heads.

Of course, the best "behind the scenes" secret is hidden among the plants - the watering system, which is a low pressure system hooked up to a battery-powered timer. It's very low-tech, and very inexpensive, but it's worked here for over twenty years, and I see no need to change anything.

There's a half-inch trunkline for the main watering buried just below ground (no more than an inch in most places) and a second thinner misting line, also shallowly buried. I walk the lines, inspecting them for clogged heads, etc, which I replace right away. I keep plenty of spare misting heads and water sprayers around.

So there you go: behind the scenes. If your garden doesn't naturally have any "behind the scenes" areas, I recommend that you create a space for things like garbage cans, hoses, etc. They're essential to the garden, but they look just terrible.

July 4, 2018

How to water plants in your desert garden

One of the reasons that so many people fail with their desert garden is that they don't know what's "behind the scenes". That is, the watering system. I try to keep mine as hidden and discreet as possible, and it isn't because I'm secretive, it's just that it looks better that way, and is more efficient. I have a low-pressure system that waters the roots of my plants through tiny sprayer heads.

I started with a "drip system", which had "spaghetti tubing" but that tubing would always get clogged up, so I changed over to little plastic sprayer heads, which I put on small plastic risers. I just installed two of them a few minutes ago, and it looks like I'm not a minute too soon - the oleanders were suffering in the awful heat!

Close-up of the sprayer heads

I use the adjustable sprayers, which I get at Home Depot, which allows me to control the distance of the spray. Even though it's a low-pressure system, it's still under pressure, and there's no reason to go spraying all over the sidewalk, or my neighbor's truck! The spray goes directly to the roots, which is not only the best for plants, it's the best for the environment, and my water bill. In fact, my garden uses so little water it's not even noticeable in my water bill.

One of the things I've learned over time is how easy it is to accidentally kick, and break, one of the sprayer heads. So I put some rocks nearby just as a visual to remind me not to step there.

I've seen people plant in the spring in Phoenix and try to haul out a heavy hose regularly, and by summer everything in their yard is dead, except cactus and weeds. Sometimes the only thing that lasts the summer is the rocks. I installed the low-pressure water system myself (it's not rocket science!) and I keep an eye on it, making small adjustments every once in a while. Even then it's awful to be out there in the summer, and I wouldn't even dream of trying to keep a garden like mine going with water from a hose.