New desert yard planting information

birdlady_in_mesa(z9 AZ)January 1, 2013

Several members contributed to this great FAQ for people who are wanting to plant a new yard or one that has hardly any landscaping in it. Thanks to each of you for your input.

Figure out what activities you want to be able to do in your yard and then design different elements of your landscape around that. For example, your yard will be very different if your main activities are entertaining, relaxing, and growing a rose garden than if your activities are playing with small children, supplementing your food supply w/ veggies, and exercising your dog. Thinking that through will help you plan your yard much more effectively.

If possible, don't rush into anything major too quickly. Take a season or two (or three) to watch the patterns of the sun through your yard, and really figure out the various microclimates. That will have a huge impact on what will do well and not do well in your yard.

Trees are the first thing you want to plant as they take the longest to grow. Go to the library and ask to see their book of Gardening Bulletins put out by the Maricopa County Extension Service. I think there are about 70. You can copy any of the bulletins you wish. When you decide on your trees, call the County Extension and ask them for the good and bad points on the trees you have selected. The number is 602-470-8086 - if you call weekdays between 9 and noon you may reach a live person.If you are going to buy a citrus tree be advised that it will be 4 or 5 years after you plant it before you get a good crop of fruit from the tree. It doesn't matter whether the tree is a 5 gallon one or a 50 gallon one, it still takes 4 or 5 years. Also, many people have grapefruit trees and more than willing to give away grapefruit.

You might check to make sure your drip system (if you have one) is working correctly. If you plan to add a few trees, it would be great if they were on a separate valve from your shrubs.

In March and April there are usually Garden Tours around the valley. Check out your local newspaper garden section. Visiting other people's yards will give you a good idea what they have planted and what a mature yard will look like. Sometimes it is hard to visual what a 1 gallon plant can grow to in a year or two.

Go to the Library, check out Sunset Western Garden Book and look up plants you are interested in buying for you yard and see what it says about them. Used Sunset Western Garden books are often available at used book stores.

Join a garden club and learn from the experience of the members.

For a FREE booklet listing over 200 low-water use plants that will look great in your landscape (most require little to no maintenance) contact your local city water conservation office. Ask for Landscape Plants for the Arizona Desert.

Here's a list of steps to take when landscaping a yard from scratch or renovating an existing one.


  1. GRADE YARD - Grading your yard gives it a more natural look and creates more dimension...
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