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

March 19, 2017

Getting your garden through the Phoenix summer heat

As much as I love living in Phoenix, I would never deny that the summers are awful. The heat is intense, like "fry an egg on the sidewalk" hot. So getting your garden through the summer months, which in Phoenix starts in April and ends in September, can be a challenge. And it's so much of a challenge that you will very often see gardens with only rocks, or cactus. And that's a shame, because you can do so much more. You just have to get through the summer.

The most important thing that you can provide is shade. Yes, there are plants that do fine out in the baking sun of Phoenix, but not many. My property has a few areas that get southern and western sun, which I call "the fires of hell", and in those places I can only plant very tough plants that can stand it. Elsewhere I have two types of shade: from my trees, and from my house.

The "prime real estate" for my garden. Morning sun with some shade from the tree. By afternoon the house will shade this area completely. I just took this photo a few minutes ago, and it's about 9 a.m.

The "prime real estate" for plants on my property is an eastern exposure, with some shade from one of my trees. An eastern exposure means that the plants are planted along the wall on the side of my house that faces the rising sun. Yes, in real estate only three things matter: location, location, location.

But that's not enough. In the summer even early mornings are painfully hot. And that leads me to something that most people get wrong: watering. Because if you're planning to water your plants all summer with a hose, you're gonna have a hard time. And dead plants.

Watering system timers

I installed a simple and inexpensive "drip system" when I first bought the house. I've been tempted to upgrade it, but, nah, not really. It works fine and is automated by a battery-operated timer. It's the one on the right in the photo. The one on the left is a misting system, which gives secondary water to the plants, by misting the air at ground level. Everything is just plastic, and the parts need to be replaced every few years, but I like it, understand it, and it keeps me paying attention to it. Even the best systems need for you to pay attention to it.

Getting ready for the summer heat is like getting ready for the blizzards of winter. You don't wait for an emergency, you do your preparations ahead of time. Then you just hunker down, and wait it through.
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