Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Back in the Garden

We have a narrow window of opportunity here in the desert Southwest.  Six weeks usually elapse between the end of winter (the last frost) and the start of the summer's heat.  In that time, plants can be planted and irrigated and fertilized and gotten off to their very best start, before the unrelenting sun wreaks its magic havoc on the flora and turns the soil into hardpan.

So, let me share some of what's been going on in my yard.

clockwise from bottom left: poinsettia, golden mexican bird of paradise, gopher plant, heavenly bamboo
or,  in other words, Euphorbia pulcherrima, caesalpinia pulcherrima, euphorbia rigida nandina domestica,

As those of you who keep up with the sidebar are aware, I have been back and forth between pillar and post pawing at the ground and procrastinating like crazy while thinking a lot about the irrigation system in my yard.  Deciding that tackling the entire project all at once was creating this neurasthenia,  I retrenched and regrouped and reorganized and rethought and when I ran out of re's to do and could put it off no longer I began to work on that raised bed.

You are seeing the after photo.  I am too embarrassed to share the before shot, which demonstrated that the four walls and corner pieces create a handy dandy storage space for all the stuff I took out of the yard during the winter.  Plastic and steel and bronze and roots and moss and stakes and poles and ties and it was a mess.  Now, all that detritus is in a plastic storage container in the potting shed (aka the golf cart garage... but we don't play golf so I claimed it as my own) but at least it's out of sight.   I've always admired gardeners who could put everything away every time .... I am definitely not of their ilk.

Once the space was clear, I pulled up the tubing and checked for leaks.  There were none, but an emitter was missing and water was gushing from a flailing piece of 1/4" tubing and I was wet.  And laughing.  Most definitely, I was laughing. 

Learning from past failures, I decided to plant the cuttings I was rooting in plastic nursery pots into the raised bed itself.  Yes, pots and all.  You can see their edges in the photo.  I know  that I cannot rely on myself to be a consistent caregiver; I'm easily distracted and often forgetful and the smaller pots really suffer in this climate if they are ignored, or even just slighted, in the heat of June and July.

With the timer, though, I can rest comfortably knowing that, with fresh batteries installed, Tucson Metro Water and I will help these babies grow to be big and strong enough to survive in the yard itself.  I was able to place the drip tubing (which emits 1 gallon per hour through a one-every-18-inches-laser-cut-holes) so that each pot had its own personal private source of hydration.

If only I had manage to disentangle myself from the construction without separating the timer from its connecting sleeve, severing the plastic in a final and irreparable way.


As the Cuters can tell you, there is no help for broken plastic.  When presented with a trampled truck, the second question, after "Can Daddooooo fix this???" was always "Is it plastic?"  Because, as they well knew, Daddooooo could fix anything, except plastic.

It's a good thing that it rained today; I have a couple of days to replace the timer.

Our yard 's irrigation system is a contractor's special. One emitter at the trunk of every tree, and the whole thing is on one timer.  This makes it very hard to garden xeriscape-ly (hmmm.. I'm making up words again.)

The premise of xeriscape is the efficient use of the water resources available.  Rainwater harvesting is part of it, and I'm happy to report that the berming I did in the courtyard

created an entirely new pathway for the water falling from the downspout onto the rip-rap (the rocks.... yes, they have a name.... ) to travel.  Instead of seeping underneath the walkway, it moves towards the Siberian Iris which came with me from California and have been been languishing in their rocky home until the berm.  Now just look at them, happy and green and smiley in the middle of the stream.

I love it when a plan comes together.
SIR was quite surprised to discover that the desert is really quite green.  "Taupe.  I thought it would be taupe"  (and I do love a boy who knows taupe when he sees it!). And there isn't just one green, either.

They're both green.... but what greens!
You sidebar readers may also remember that I was spraying Roundup on the weeds and trying to decide what would be a weed and what would be a wildflower.  RoundUp is just glyphosate, and Master Gardeners here and in Marin recommend its use.  It's simple, easy, and if you don't want to put down a pre-emergent it's the way to go.  And I didn't want to put down a pre-emergent because I want to decide for myself.  

Plant identification is not my long suit.  It took my botanist/hiking buddy nearly a year to teach me to pick out poison oak.... and you'd think I would be motivated to learn that one, at least.  But even if I were Mary Rose Duffield, it's hard to predict what the leaves will be when they grow up.  Last year, much to my own amazement, I guessed that these
would turn out to be flowers.  And I was right.  With no help from me, they are back in the yard again this year.  I promise to take pictures of them when they turn into bright blue stalks of flowering loveliness.  For now, I keep telling TBG that they are NOT WEEDS and do not need to be sprayed.
Lest you think that my gardening experience is all pain and no gain, I will leave you with these two examples of my success.  Understand, please, that this is all trial and error. I bought a magnolia tree that lasted exactly 72 hours under the portico before it transpired its last ounce of oxygen and collapsed in a defeated heap in the pot. Somehow, for no reason that I can give you, the stock

and the hibiscus

are doing quite nicely, thank you.

This post goes out to all of you gardeners who are looking at a landscape of snow. 
Laura, Phyllis, Artess..... I feel your pain


  1. I appreciate your pictures and your humor. Just goes to show that even in a climate not known to be favorable to gardening, one can make the best of it and grow enough to brighten things up a bit.

    I feel for you in regards to the heat. We were in Phoenix this past July, and found ourselves searching for a new vehicle on a Sunday afternoon when the temps hit 115! Definitely a far cry from the 80's that we're used to in the Virginia mountains. Although I must say we are looking forward to spring now, as we haven't seen the ground in weeks!

    Stan Horst
    Publisher: BetterBenches.com

  2. Ah, Stan, I feel your pain. I gardened in Chicago and remember bursting into tears at the sight of a crocus bravely smiling at me through the March snows.

    Thanks for reading!


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