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

May 10, 2013

How to water your tropical paradise in the desert

One of the reasons that so many people fail with their garden is because of the secret "behind the scenes" stuff. Of course, in a beautiful garden, these things are supposed to be hidden, but just because you can't see them doesn't mean that aren't critical. And the most important thing, especially here in the desert, is water.

The Tropical Paradise uses very little water. The water is delivered through a low-pressure "drip" system, which you can get very inexpensively at your local Home Depot. That's the system on the right. To make this work, you need a timer (I like this one made by Orbit, as my eyes aren't as young as they used to be, and besides, who wants to struggle trying to figure out how to set the timer), a pressure reducer, which brings the household water pressure down to an appropriate level for the drip system, a filter, a connector, a 1/2" trunkline (that is buried very shallowly all around the garden) and 1/4" "spaghetti" tubing, which goes to the plants. At the end of the tubing there is an assortment of ends that I have experimented with, and in some places I use the traditional "drip", but mostly I use a spray head that sits up a couple of inches about ground. I put a rock next to these so I don't step on them, they're pretty small. Starting now, as the temperatures begin to soar, I set the timer to come on at 2 pm for 20 minutes daily.

The system on the left is simply a misting system, like you see on the patios of restaurants that spray a fine mist to cool the air and bring the ambient temperature down. The misting heads are also on risers, also next to rocks so I don't step on them. The risers are made of copper, which start out shiny, but dull down very nicely to become all but invisible. Yeah, I've stepped on a few. Like the watering system, it's off in the winter, but during the summer I have it come on twice daily at 4 pm and 4 am.

I have never really felt compelled to have an expensive system installed. They tend to be so complex you need a degree in astrophysics to try to figure them out, and they also tend to be neglected and then fail after a while. I've had this system here for twenty years, and when a part wears out, I go and replace it.
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