DIY burnout

Seasons

I haven’t posted in awhile. I was considering why not, and it occurred to me that a Do-It-Yourself-er saves money by working on projects themselves. But when all the work is done by you, projects compete with your other priorities for your time and just don’t always come in first.

For all you DIY-ers who are going strong this spring, I just added a new page on backyard landscape design ideas. It includes ideas for planning your dream backyard.

This past year I haven’t put yard improvements at the top of my list, but I still have been able to enjoy my landscape. Many of the plants I added when first moving here are reaching mature sizes. I enjoy walking around the yard and seeing the flowers and new growth during spring. This is the part of landscaping that I find rewarding: a beautiful space that complements the surrounding desert and inspires me.

So, when a landscape is in stasis, what do I do to maintain everything? So far this year we’ve harvested citrus fruit, pruned trees and bushes, sprayed pre-emergent on all rocked areas, weeded around plants, planted a small garden, and added a few new plants. Spring is a good time to check that all irrigation emitters are working properly. The seals on the irrigation valve near the house get old and leaky, requiring replacement every few years.¬†A¬†xeriscape landscape is easier to maintain than many others because many of these chores are only done once a year.

This year my garden included lettuce, sunflowers, and zucchini. The lettuce is already bolting in the heat and the zucchini will die off in another month. The birds love the sunflowers.sunflowers_arizona

I added a couple of new native plants this year that I found at the Black Mountain Nursery in Cave Creek. I found Mormon tea, goldeneye, and desert milkweed there. I have better luck finding native plants at independent nurseries than at chain stores.

In the future, I still have plans to do some big projects in the yard. I would like to build a ramada-style porch extension, add crushed granite on all walkways, install flagstone pavers on the back porch and some artificial turf immediately off of that, and finish landscaping one area with some more shrubs.

Whether you’re starting projects or enjoying what you have, hope you enjoy your landscape this spring!

Design idea: update your small front yard landscape

Design ideas

Quick front yard redo (small yard)

Thinking about changing your landscape? Summer is a great time to plan a new landscape design. Let’s say you want to redo your front yard landscape by adding a bunch of plants without changing your current drip irrigation system.

Here’s my hypothetical small front yard with one mesquite tree and three Texas sage. I drew my idea on 1/4 inch graph paper. 1/4″ equals 1 foot. The yard area is 30 x 15 feet.

Small Yard original design

First, map existing emitters and a rough idea of where your drip line runs.

Next, add plants. I had three goals in this design: increase color, add plants without adding emitters, and pick plants that are commonly available.

Here are the plants I picked: 4 red fairy duster bushes, 3 Santa Rita prickly pear, 3 green desert spoon, 7 golden torch cacti, 4 fire barrel cacti, and 2 bunny ears prickly pear. The desert spoon are functioning like a grass in the design, but you could substitute Mormon tea or ocotillo.

Here’s the new design, colored so you can imagine the end result.

Small Yard new landscape design

Small Yard new landscape design

Notice I didn’t just space everything evenly around the yard. I also NEVER use just one of a plant, use multiples. Even though space in this yard is very limited, I used small and large plants. A bigger yard would allow more variety and more empty areas or plant groupings. You could also add some hardscape features such as boulders.

The best part of this design is you might not have to add any emitters to your current drip system. If the mesquite has a basin around it that fills up when it is watered, the fairy dusters can share. The golden torch, barrel cacti, and desert spoon should do fine if they are hand watered every 1-2 weeks their first year in the ground. The prickly pears may have to get added to the drip system, depending on how they do. Hand watering them every two weeks in the summer would make it possible to leave them off.

Woolly butterfly bush

Toughest drought-tolerant plants for your desert garden

Plant selection, Plants

In order to maximize the number of plants in your garden without overloading your drip system, you may end up planting things that you expect to survive on their own. Luckily, there are some un-prissy plants that can do this. These survivors deserve a medal, instead of being overlooked and under-appreciated. After all, this is the desert! When I moved to Arizona, the house I bought had been vacant for two years and some of the plants in the yard were still alive. That is the kind of landscaping I want.

Trees

Natives: Foothills palo verde, Ironwood, Joshua tree

Non-natives: Catclaw acacia, Whitethorn acacia, Elephant tree (frost sensitive), Smoke tree.

Shrubs

Creosote bush, Desert holly, Four wing saltbush, Jojoba, Las Vegas buckwheat, Limber bush, Mormon tea, Pink fairy duster, Shadscale saltbush, Warnock condalia, White bursage, Yerba santa

Woolly butterfly bush

Woolly butterfly bush

Wildflowers, agaves, yuccas, others

Bahia, Desert sunflower, Prickly poppy, Variegated century plant, Bear grass, Banana yucca, Our Lord’s candle yucca, Candelilla, Slipper plant, Bush muhly grass, Medicinal aloe