New House Blank Canvas

lescont(7)June 28, 2013

We are buying a house and will close on July 31st the yard is completely bare. I was wanting to get some feed back on what kind of trees and plants I can plant in august. Also what is the best way to make a garden with the AZ desert soil? Is it better to make a raised garden put my own soil or dig up and amend soil already there? Any help would be great I don't really know where to start.

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MaryMcP Zone 8b - Phx AZ

For fruit trees you should contact Reid at RSI Growers. Local grower with proven good results.

Here is a link that might be useful: RSI Growers

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 9:03AM
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grant_in_arizona(USDA Z9 Scottsdale AZ)

Hi there, welcome to the forum. We hope you'll post a lot about your new home and garden. Definitely search the forum for tips and tricks from previous posts and you'll find some great information. Here's a reply I sent to someone else several months ago, lightly update for now. :) Also, if possible, try to wait to do major planting until autumn when temperatures aren't so beastly, but I know some communities make folks get things planted within a certain length of time.

I think this is the MOST fun, interesting, and festive gardening climate in the U.S. Great stuff!
The first thing I'd suggest is that you get your hands on some of the many good, LOCAL gardening books. They will really help give you a lot of information on different styles of gardens, and their plants, and then what those plants need. They'll also remind readers that our long, easy gardening season is autumn, winter, spring and early summer, not the way folks did things "back home". You can search this AZ forum for recommended books, and I'm sure folks will chime in with suggestions too.

You'll be happiest growing plants that do well here (that applies to any climate of course, LOL), and there are TONS of leafy and non-leafy plants, plus citrus and all sorts of fun shrubs, vines and trees. Just remember that not everything here wants rich loamy soil. Most desert plants don't want a ton of organic materials in their soil, though things like roses, veggies etc do.

There are a lot of great books for this area that will save you heartache, most are available at large local book stores, and all are available at the big online book sellers too, and again search the forum's archive to see various lists of books folks have suggested.

Just off the top of my head here are a few:

"Arizona Gardener's Guide" by formerly-local author Mary Irish

"Desert Gardening" by George Brookbank. He's a bit of a curmudgeon, but the advice is great and really helps explains to gardeners how the soil, climate, watering and plants work here.

"Desert Landscaping: How to Start and Maintain a Healthy Landscape in the Southwest" also by G. Brookbank. It's really great if you can get over the B&W photos. Good information that is timeless.

"Plants For Dry Climates: How To Select, Grow, And Enjoy, Revised Edition" by Mary Rose Duffield

"Native Plants for Southwestern Landscapes" by Judy Mielke. Don't let the "native" part discourage you--most of these plants are now very popular in the nursery trade (and can even be found at the Big Box hardware stores, plus local nurseries too). Great information on where these plants are found in nature, and how to keep them happy.

If you're concerned about a plant's tolerance of our warm summers (and warm summer nights especially), check out "Heat-Zone Gardening: How to Choose Plants That Thrive in Your Region's Warmest Weather." It's a fun, interesting book that helps us weed out plants that just won't make it here (and it highlights and confirms the many that thrive here).

If you want a lot of fruits and veggies, "Extreme Gardening: How to Grow Organic in the Hostile Deserts" by David Owens is good, if a bit slapsticky at times. Good information though, especially for veggie growing.

Those are just some quick thoughts, but spending just a little money and time on some or all of these books will give you tons of information and entertainment, and will get you get up for a wonderful Arizona garden.

Plus being on this forum will be really helpful too, and fun! So many folks here have wonderful, wonderful gardens, and there's no substitute for hands-on experience from real gardeners of course. Just for fun, I'm putting a link to my little garden's pics from this month. All of my garden photo albums are viewable, so you can scroll through them to see what's blooming when (I organize them by month and year). So many great gardeners here will be willing to help out too. Oh,and we love pics too! :)

Happy gardening!

Here is a link that might be useful: Pics from my garden June 2013 (June is the hottest month of each year)

    Bookmark   June 30, 2013 at 8:53PM
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Make sure you read up on your HOA rules if you have one. Most of them have allowed plant and tree lists. As far as planting in the summer just make sure the plants come some sort of warantee or replacement if they dont make it through the heat. When picking out plants keep in mind maintenance needs and litter production.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2013 at 3:58AM
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Also check with your city as most offer FREE landscaping and irrigation classes through the water conservation offices. You'll find topics like Southwest landscaping and design, vegetable gardening, rainwater harvesting, pruning, landscape care, irrigation and sprinkler care, etc.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2013 at 12:50PM
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Also, ask your local power company if they offer a shade-tree program, which offers low-cost trees to plant on the south, east, and/or west sides of your home.

For example, Tucson Electric Power has a program where you can purchase up to 4 trees for $8 apiece, as long as you plant them where they will shade your home (and therefore reduce electric bills). Quite the bargain!

Here is a link that might be useful: Trees for Tucson

    Bookmark   July 2, 2013 at 12:52PM
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Thanks for all the tips. One more question. does anybody have any ideas where I can buy some nice plants that I can buy a lot without spending too much? The yard is a good size and I'd like to stay away from putting grass. Also any ideas for rock or some other landscape covering that will keep the dust down? My new place isn't in a sub division and I have no HOA we really are in the middle of the desert. Any info on where to buy stuff would be great especially any sites online or places that will deliver anywhere in the state as I am about 4 hrs out of Tucson and Phoenix.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2013 at 12:23PM
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tomatofreak(Z9 Phx USA)

I'm confused. How can you be 4 hours from Phoenix *and* Tucson and be in the desert *and* zone 7? Can you be a little more specific as to your elevation and what part of civilization (a term used loosely here in AZ) you're closest to?

    Bookmark   July 5, 2013 at 7:05PM
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My new place will be outside of Duncan a small town in eastern az. Duncan is about an hour from safford and right on the new mexico border. Elevation for Duncan is 3600ft. The population is about 700, needless to say there is nothing as far as stores or shops in the town. Safford does have a home depot and walmart but the closest nurseries would be in Tucson or Phoenix. And the zone is 7b that makes it seem cooler there than it actually is maybe because the town is on the gila river it does seem to keep temps down some. However it still get up to 115 in the summers but the winters usually have about a month or two of cold weather with snow and temps as low as in the teens. Also dirt is typical desert ground lots of rock some caliche, well desert.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2013 at 9:50AM
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"What kind of trees and plants I can plant in august. Also what is the best way to make a garden with the AZ desert soil? Is it better to make a raised garden put my own soil or dig up and amend soil already there?"

First nice and congratulations on your new home.

Trees on the west side will cast shade on your home in the summer. Deciduous trees will drop leaf so the winter sun will shine through.

The best trees to plant are ones around 4 feet tall. More importantly around 1/2" to 3/4" diameter near the base or above a graft point. Those you can transport in your car. I have had 22 trees in my jeep wrangler unlimited at one point (though they were bareroot). I wouldn't want to drive a long distance that way though. If you buy a tree(s) with leaves on them you will have to transport them inside a vehicle or well covered up. Driving over 40MPH will strip ALL of the leaves off quickly. I have has 15 five gal. containerized trees inside my jeep at one point. So .... LOL. These smaller trees do way better than big ones on transplant recovery and cost.

August may be a good time of the year to plant trees or not in your area. Desert trees can be planted and do well in the hot parts of the year. But most other things you want in the ground either as soon as you get a break from the summer heat or as soon as winter ends. In Phoenix (where I reside) that is Oct and Jan. In Duncan adjust accordingly.

It is either at the northern edge of the Chihuahuan desert or just north of there. Either way it means you get one rainy season July-August. A little snow in winter, but not much. 3,600 feet elevation will limit some of what you grow but surprisingly not much. You will want to hook up with like minded growers (probably almost everyone) to answer questions as to what can I grow and when do I plant it? When does spring show up? I am guessing you can't grow much in the winter but it is relatively short and will lend itself to cold storage. No point in reinventing the wheel.

As to what do you want for your home? Native trees? Fruit and nut trees? Gardens? Farming?

Soil should be tested at least once to see if there are deficiencies. From what I can see your soil may be very good indeed. Lots of vegetation. If any deficiencies are detected and you plan on a large swath of land being renovated, you would till in a supplement(s). I am of the opinion you want to do a no till or one time tilling as tilling destroys soil life. Good composting practice makes soil reusable forever with high fertility (if not right away eventually) and highly friable with good moisture holding ability.

What is your source of water? wells? Municipal? Do you want to capture rainwater? Do you want to use your graywater?,500%27r%20evised042011.pdf

If you want to do apple trees, this guy can ship you them in a box that fits in your mail box. I got 25 from him my first year and laughed wondering if the postman knew he just put 25 trees in my mail box. You won't be getting fruit tree shipments until January through March however.

You can get fruit and nut trees shipped via UPS/FedEx bareroot (ordering starts Sept-Oct) for Jan-March as well. I am guessing but you likely want fruit and nut trees with at least modest chill hours (800) to lessen chances of late frost taking blooms out. I see on average mid-Feb is last freeze date but freezes have occurred historically up to mid-May. Snow early mid-Dec to early March, but light if at all. It is currently 6 degrees cooler than Phoenix and some showers. Rainy season lasts a bit longer from July to mid-Oct, but still Jul-Aug heaviest.[]=438

See if any Master Gardeners or Coop Extension agents in your area.

HomeDepot and Walmart can order for you or online order and free ship to the Safford store to hold for you. Hopefully someone from Safford, Duncan, Cliffton (or Lordburg, NM) reads this and responds with their thoughts though Internet connections are likely problematic in this area. Hughes Satellite/Phone line.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2013 at 8:41PM
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Hi, I'm in a similar situation -- new construction house, blank square of dirt (although I'm actually in the El Paso area). Complete novice gardener, too.

Since the "Southwest" forum seems to be deserted, I landed here, where there are similar conditions (extremely useless to read gardening tips based on elsewhere in the country).

I want to thank you for the list of books. I have several of them, and am researching, researching, researching! I also like Scott Calhoun's "The Hot Garden."

    Bookmark   July 15, 2013 at 1:52PM
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Welcome Violet. El Paso has similarities and differences. Your winters are far colder than the urban areas of Arizona, we get a winter rainy season as well in the Sonoran Desert and you are at 3,800ft. elevation. We have a winter growing season, I suspect you do not.
Your soils are likely like ours as a general rule: high salt, high pH and low carbon. Our summer growing seasons are likely alike.

Here is a link that might be useful: Nice Wiki Writeup on El Paso Climate

    Bookmark   July 15, 2013 at 9:03PM
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thanks, that is a nice write up. That pic of the cyclist is right where I live.

(lafs at "The snow, which was light, stopped after about a day, but during the ensuing cold episode, municipal utilities went into a crisis.")

that is, I laugh now, but at the time it wasn't so funny

    Bookmark   July 16, 2013 at 12:52AM
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