People, Plants, and Pigs

Bonnie Nowicki

Name three things that get sunburned. My dear hubby titled this article. Last year was brutal for Tucson, with over 100 days of temperatures over 100 degrees. In the rainfall department, the usual yearly average is 12 inches. 2020 became the driest year on record with only a skimpy 3.58 inches. What’s a gardener to do, besides wear a sunhat?

Our landscapes and beloved desert are suffering. Our established trees, cacti, plants, and grasses are showing signs of great stress. The quickest course of action would be to reach for the nearest water hose to supplement our yard irrigation systems with a deep soaking. This is immediate action and actually will push out the salt build-up past the root zone. This is a good thing and should be done two to three times each summer. Another option is covering the most sensitive plants in our yard with shade cloth. This is very doable, but not so aesthetically pleasing.

I consulted my University of Arizona Master Gardener textbook on xeriscape. The definition is water conserving, drought-tolerant landscaping. The key to xeriscape is following several principals. Modify your landscape elevation slightly by creating small, shallow berms, or basins, around plants and trees that will capture water run-off from the roof, etc. Consider planting native perennial plants such as Desert Marigold (Baileya multiradiata) and Chocolate Flower (Berlandiera lyrata). These lovely, yellow, daisy-like, evergreen plants will brighten your landscape, have low water needs, and are drought tolerant.

In your landscape beds, spread organic mulches like bark chips or wood shavings to hold in soil moisture and actually improve the soil over time. Mulches also protect plants from the heat and lessen weed growth. I realize in most Quail Creek yards rock gravel is used, but it is not as effective as mulches. Other xeriscape principles are limiting lawn areas and proper maintenance practices, such as controlling weeds and avoiding over-fertilizing and heavy pruning, which promotes excessive growth. Hopefully, these suggestions will help you feel less stress over the lack of rain, extreme heat, and possible sunburn. Remember to wear your sunhat when gardening.