December 11, 2016
When to turn off the automatic water for the winter in Phoenix - mid-December
If you have a successful garden in the Phoenix, Arizona area, you have an automatic watering system. Phoenix gets brutally hot in the summer (which is most of the year!) and has very low humidity, so plants need regular water. Not a lot of water, but regular. I use a system that delivers water very precisely to the plants, and nowhere else (like running down the street or all over sidewalks!) and I also have a misting system, which aids with increasing the humidity, just a bit.
It's December 11th, and I've turned off the water in the backyard, which is on the east side of my house. I'll leave the water off all through January, and will turn it on again in late January or early February, starting weekly, for fifteen minutes. As the weather gets warmer I will increase the frequency, until it's coming on every day for fifteen minutes (when it's over 100 degrees) and then back down. I've been doing this for almost twenty years now, and it works fine. My water bills are very low, I have a lush garden, and I never have to drag out a hose.
The timers I have are very simple, and they run on batteries. Mine is not a "set it and forget it" system, nor is it so complex that it requires a degree from MIT to operate it (I hate those!). Today I switched it to "off". I do check the system just about every day, because it's there to precisely water my plants, and keep me from having to drag around a hose, it's not there because I don't want to pay attention to it, or the garden. It's not a "set it and forget it" system, it's something that I can fine-tune to the weather. Mine is a garden to "fuss" over, which is a labor of love for me, but I just don't like lugging heavy hoses, and I don't like seeing plants die.
As you can see in the photo, there are two systems that supply water to my garden in the backyard. The one on the left is the misting system, and the one on the right is a low-pressure "drip" system that I use with sprayer heads (there's actually a lot of pressure in a system like that!).
I turned off the automatic watering system today, but I will continue to hand-water the annuals and bulbs until the "Christmas rains" begin. I have planted the flowers close to the front edge, so I can easily reach them, for watering and for dead-heading. I have pansies, alyssum, petunias, daffodils and irises, which all do great in the winter in Phoenix. And in the winter they're the only plants that appreciate the additional water. The rest of the plants really don't want to stand with their feet in cold water (the cycads, the agaves, etc.) so I leave them alone.
My front yard faces west, where it's slightly warmer, so I still have the automatic watering system coming on once a week for fifteen minutes. I'll give that area another week or two, and then I'll turn off the system for the winter. I'm too lazy to go out front and hand-water, so I haven't planted any annuals out there.
Posted by Brad Hall