Thought I would show you my gardening efforts in my back yard. My back yard has come a looonng way! Yes it is possible to grow a large variety of things in Phoenix, the trick is to forget everything you think you know about growing and re-learn the desert way. I bought books, looked up things online, and still didn't get anywhere. After a few years of trying with little to show for it, I found a group on Facebook called Organic Desert Gardeners of Maricopa County. If you live in zone 9 I highly recommend joining!
I read every post every comment in the group and began to learn a lot! Now in my second year with new knowledge I am beginning to actually grow some things! I am limited though because of health issues and there just isn't much money in the budget for gardening supplies. The trick is to set up your garden beds right, plant the right varieties at the right times, then it all is so much easier.
In planting areas we use compost heavily and mix into our clay. We add sand if we think it needs it for drainage. I fertilize with an all purpose organic fertilizer, fish emulsion, and Epsom salts. We also use alfalfa horse or rabbit pellets (horse feed not poop) in areas that need heavy nitrogen like the asparagus. I mulch now with compost because the other mulches I used, straw...pine needles... allow pest to hide. I will eventually remove the other mulches and only use compost mulch.
Yes I compost! So important for your garden. My method is a lazy one, or rather an easy no fuss one. I have a shaded area that receives water from my watering system where I toss all plant and veggie scraps. I added worms as I didn't have any in the dirt here. The worms make the compost and once a year we spread it around where needed. This also added worms to my growing areas, a welcome addition. I also buy bagged compost and we use a no dig/no till method of growing. Not much work at all.
We use soaker hoses and drip lines for watering. They are attached to battery operated timers. A watering system here is so important! Every summer I would just quit watering by hand and let it all die. It was too hot to bother. Then when I started growing veggies, one hot July day I completely forgot to water and lost about half of everything in that small bed because of it. Of course that was before I knew how to add lots of compost ;) Besides, who wants to be tied to a watering schedule? We have found that the battery operated timers will run for a couple of years before needing batteries changed out. Of course, the occasional hand watering never hurts here in the dry desert either. A good washing down to knock off pest is good too.
Here's a look at where we started and where we are. The pic is of some little birds eating dill seeds from plants in my horse trough but you can see an empty swimming pool in the back. And a fence lined with oleanders. When we moved here 10 years ago, we had a lot of concrete and a swimming pool for a small backyard. The only dirt to be found was in beds along the north and west fence, and they had oleanders growing in them. Oleanders are messy, and poisonous. They should be handled while wearing gloves only. They were also very old, about 12 feet tall, and had a well established root system in our clay/rock hillside. Though they offered privacy from the view of homes behind us that sit higher than we do, they were a very poor choice around a pool requiring almost daily clean up. They also provided good nesting for scorpions around the shaded concealed bases.
I wanted the oleanders gone asap, but we found that removing them would tear up the fence so they had to stay for time being. And the pool, I think we used it 3 times the first year. The third year it needed some work and we were tired of the maintenance and cost of up keep so we drained it. Should we fill it in? We decided to give it a year to see if we changed our minds.The thought of filling it in seemed so wrong, but we had a back yard area that was dangerous for the kids to be in; poisonous plants, hot concrete and an empty pool.
The grandkids kids really needed to be able to get outside and play but there were no funds to fill in that pool. The kids started praying the pool would be filled with free dirt! And I really need to write that story because that is what eventually happened. So Papa decided if the kids were going to pray free dirt into the pool for a play area he should get it ready by jack hammering and disconnecting water and elec lines etc. We decided to leave the cool decking around the area.
Here are the kids playing on the free dirt in the pool! They loved it just like it was and were sad when they found out we would be leveling it. Notice the nearly dead oleanders in the back. I refused to water them since I hated them so much.
Here's a pic now, 4 years after the free dirt. The back fence fell down during a storm and hooray all the oleanders there were removed for the new fence! We used pea gravel for the covering over the filled in pool and is a nice base for the kids play area. No, I didn't want grass to water and maintain! A shade structure was put up, we started collecting play things, also free. Papa built me a 4 x 8 foot raised bed. A lot in a small space but oh so wonderful! We enjoy it very much.
We still need to remove oleanders on south side (to the left in the pic) and replace that fence section, maybe next year. The oleanders over there are not so big.
This is the new fence put in last summer that replaced the fence behind the kids on the dirt pile in previous picture. I have planted okra over by tomatoes twice and something keeps eating them as they come up so I guess we will not have okra this year.
My raised bed, I packed a lot in there! Peas are about done as its too hot and so is cilantro. Squash is doing good. The potato is a volunteer from composting.
This bed is struggling. It's the only growing area I had before new fence and pool were filled in. I think the tree is getting too big and it doesn't get enough sun. Also I think I should fertilize more as the tree probably is sucking up a lot of nutrients. Notice the 2x4 holding up the fence section. Yup, need a need fence soon.
We have so much concrete .... which is hot, that I asked Papa to jack hammer up a section at the end of the driveway for an asparagus bed. It will be shaded in the morning and get afternoon sun which I know is a no no here, (you want it the other way around, morning sun, afternoon shade) but I am hoping it will forgive me and do well. This was just put in this last January and is growing.
A close up of one of the horse troughs. Well there you have it. I'm thinking of planting grapes when the old fence is replaced. Next time, I will show you my front yard, I grow veggies there too.
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