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Jaci Jensen
Jaci Jensen

Home Smart Elite Group
Glendale, AZ 85308

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AZ Landscape - Conserve Water

Plant of the Month: Ironwood — The Desert’s Oldest Nurse | Plants for Birds – Part 3

Feeling melancholy as you sweep up the spent yellow petals of your Palo Verdes? I understand why: when the “month of monochrome yellow” is behind us, the baking summer is upon us, and most plants (and people!) sober up to prepare. Don’t despair yet, though—late spring wildflowers still surround Saguaros wreathed like brides with white blooms. And, now is the time for Desert Ironwood to take the stage, it’s purple blossoms so easy on the eye after all that yellow… and what a truly remarkable tree.

The Ironwood (Olneya tesota) is the only species in its genus and is named for its extremely dense heartwood that is so heavy that it does not float. This density is thought to be why the tree is so slow growing, much more so than its more sprightly neighbors, the Mesquite and Palo Verde. In addition, Ironwood heartwood is almost non-biodegradable due to mineral deposits, and because they resist saprophytes (a plant, fungus, or microorganism that lives on dead or decaying organic matter) and are toxic to termites, dead trees persist long after life has left them. They bear witness to desert happenings like silent stones, worn only by wind and water.

The Ironwood’s purple flowers are a welcome addition to any landscape. Photo by Donna DiFrancesco.

In life, the Ironwood provides riches both above and below the soil. Because it is a wickedly thorny and densely branched tree, over 500 desert critters (some 250 of them plant species) find protection beneath these sheltering, yet unforgiving, arms. The space beneath the Ironwoods’ generous canopy is home to so many of the desert’s banal miracles: seeds sprouting, tiny hummingbirds fledging, rabbits escaping a coyote’s snapping maw. As if that wasn’t enough, Ironwoods also provide nutritious pods that mature in mid to late summer when little else is available.  At and below the soil, the Ironwood acts as a habitat-modifying keystone species by enriching the soil with nitrogen (as do Mesquite and Palo Verde) making germination and early growth possible for many desert plants. Further, the Ironwoods’ diffuse canopy moderates surface temperatures by about 10 degrees, thereby protecting plant youngsters from desert extremes. Although well-known for these functions as a “nurse tree”, scientists are just discovering how long-lived the trees can be—some have been dated to 800 to 1,500 years old—making Ironwood the first and oldest desert nurse tree! The take-home message here is that when you plant an Ironwood, it will probably be around, doing good stuff, for a LONG time!

For Arizona’s birds, Ironwoods provide not only protection but a bountiful supply of insects drawn to the trees’ ample blooms. Gardeners find that Ironwoods can coax even desert die-hards like the tiny Black-tailed Gnatcatcher and the lovely, somewhat vocal Ash-throated Flycatcher from the lonely wilds to the suburban yard. Your garden regulars like Abert’s Towhee, Verdin, and Northern Mockingbird will also appreciate this tree.

The Ironwood gets its name from its dense, strong wood. It is one of the heaviest woods in the world and will sink when dropped in water. Photo by Steve Prager

Clearly, Ironwoods have high ecological value, but besides attracting cool birds, what can this tree do for the home gardener? Quite a lot, it turns out: for one, they can survive in very dry conditions–Ironwoods’ drought tolerance rivals superstars like Creosote (Larrea), so this is no desert lightweight.  Do note that if water-starved, Ironwoods will lose every single tiny grey-green leaf, but will bounce back to life with the first drenching monsoon. Ironwoods also make excellent specimen trees, if you are patient enough to let them grow into their charm. Although their natural habit is brushy-based, they will tolerate pruning and can be gracefully manicured into sinuous garden backdrops thereby highlighting their elegant silver-grey bark. Remember, too, those lovely purple flowers that seem to appear right on cue post “yellow flower time” to distract us (at least momentarily) from the coming summer inferno. Speaking of which, as you prepare yourself for the summer heat, find solace in that it will not last forever – but your newly planted Ironwood will come pretty close. Happy planting!

You may be interested in these other related articles:

Did you know that up to 70 percent of water use is outdoors? That’s why we love desert plants and feature them each month. You can learn more about Ironwood and other plants on our Arizona Low-Water-Use Plants page. Visit our page on Choosing and Planting Low Water-Use Plants for tips on plant selection and how to plant properly. Also, be sure to read through all of our featured Plant of the Month blogs!

Water – Use It Wisely is proud to feature guest bloggers who write about topics related to water and water conservation. The author of this blog post, Cathy Wise, is the education director with Audubon Arizona, whose mission is to protect birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow, using science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation.

Photographer Steve Prager is an important bird area program associate & teacher/naturalist with Audubon Arizona. 

The post Plant of the Month: Ironwood — The Desert’s Oldest Nurse | Plants for Birds – Part 3 appeared first on Water Use It Wisely.

Conserving Water In Your Garden — 13 Essential Tips

A healthy, thriving garden needs water, there’s no way around that. However, many people waste huge amounts of water, and it’s possible to make a lot less of it go a lot further. Here are our top 13 essential tips for conserving water in your garden.

Why bother saving water?

Before we look at how to save water, let’s just think for a moment about why we should take the trouble. There are several good reasons why we should all make more effort to limit our water use. Here are some of the most important.

For many people, an important reason will be simply to save money. If you pay according to how much water you consume, you can greatly reduce your expenses by conserving water.

Then there is the ecological aspect. During periods of peak demand, the natural environment is also under the greatest water stress. By using less, we do our part to help protect nature.

Even if you care nothing for taking care of our planet, by using too much water when less is available, you also play a part in driving up prices. If everybody tries to use a little less, it will contribute to keeping prices down.

Finally, there is the fact that water is now a dwindling resource. With climate change, drought conditions seem to be becoming more common and more severe. In the coming years, we may all have to adapt to water being much scarcer than it is now.

1. Apply Mulch

One of the easiest ways to save significant amounts of water is to apply mulch to your garden – this helps in at least two different ways.

First, mulch can significantly reduce evaporation, so the water you give to your plants will stay in the soil for longer, remaining available for roots to absorb.

Second, mulch discourages weeds from growing around your plants. Remember, weeds have the same needs as your other plants, and there is a constant battle for water. If you have weeds in your garden, they will be stealing valuable water from the plants you are trying to grow.

As a bonus, many mulches also provide extra nutrients to the soil. For potted plants, use about an inch; for your flowerbeds, cover with at least a couple of inches.

2. Spread compost

Along with a top layer of mulch, you should also spread compost over your garden. Compost, consisting of broken-down organic matter known as humus, can absorb many times its own weight in water, greatly increasing the water retention of your soil.

The result is that you will need to water your garden less frequently since the moisture remains available for longer.

Compost also carries many vital nutrients, increasing the quality and health of your soil. This means that any plants growing there will be better-established and better-equipped to deal with lack of water during periods of drought.

3. Know when to water

When you water your garden is of vital importance, but the best time of day is a matter of some debate in gardening circles.

While everyone agrees that you shouldn’t water in the heat of the day (this is when the highest proportion of water will be lost to evaporation), opinion is split over whether you should water in the early morning or in the evening.

Some say that watering in the morning is best since that is the coolest time of day, usually with the least amount of wind. This will give plants plenty of water to face the heat that will come later in the day.

Others say the evening is best since it is also cool, but some believe that water on leaves may not evaporate overnight, leading to fungal infection.

What is sure is that if you see your plants wilting in the heat of the day, you shouldn’t wait until the evening to help them out – if you do, it may be too late, and you could find yourself with a garden full of dead plants.

Another tip to bear in mind is to water when a drought is forecasted rather than after it begins. This will give the soil time to absorb the water and it will allow the plants to prepare themselves for the dry times ahead.

4. Grow fewer thirsty plants

If you want to save water or you live in an area where restrictions are in place, you might consider growing species that naturally require less water to live and thrive.

Ones to look for include smaller plants, plants with narrow leaves, plants with grey or silver leaves (this reflects radiation, reducing evaporation) and plants with leathery or curled leaves. All of these types of plant are able to tolerate higher temperatures and lose water less quickly.

Avoid plants with large, green leaves, plants that require lots of fertilizer or plants that grow quickly as these are all water guzzlers. Newly planted vegetation also consumes more water.

One trap to avoid is mistaking “drought-tolerant” plants for plants with low water requirements.

Many drought-tolerant plants have evolved to suck up as much water as possible when it is available to help survive the times when water is scarce. This means that, far from consuming less water, they will actually drink up everything you give them.

If you want to grow drought-tolerant plants, make sure you don’t water them too much or they may end up taking even more water than your other plants!

5. Use smart watering techniques

There is more to watering plants than just walking around with a garden hose. By being smart about your watering techniques, you can also save a lot of water.

For example, sprinklers are good for large areas, especially turf, but can use up huge quantities of water and are not well targeted. If water runs off your yard, split your watering times into two or more sessions. Automatic sprinklers also provide the benefit of programmable controllers. Be sure to set the timer correctly and adjust it as conditions change.

Using a hose or watering can take more effort but deliver water right where it is needed, like around the bases of plants. Be sure to use a nozzle to control the flow. By not watering the surrounding area, you also discourage weeds. The advantage of hand watering is that you can easily avoid overwatering.

An even better option is to use drip irrigation along with a smart controller. It is very effective at watering individual plants and applying just the right amount of water — one to four gallons directly to the soil. The advantage of drip irrigation over sprinklers is that there is little water loss due to evaporation or runoff. It’s particularly good for mulched areas because it can directly soak the soil without washing away the mulch.

Prioritize areas that need it most, like areas with new plants and seedlings. By being smart about how you water your garden, you will be able to cut down quite a bit on how much you use.

6. Don’t overwater

This might seem very obvious, but make sure you don’t overwater your garden!

If you use more water than you need, you will be wasting water – and money. But more than this, overwatering can cause leaching, the process whereby the nutrients needed by your plants are washed away. Overwatering can also lead to lack of oxygen in the soil as well as root rot.

There is also another factor to consider. Overwatering plants encourage them to put down shallower roots since they don’t need to go in search of water deeper down.

This will result in plants that are dependent on the water you give them and will leave them less prepared to deal with periods of drought.

A good way to test if your soil needs watering is to dig into it to about a spade’s depth. If the soil down there is moist, this indicates that there is no need to water. However, if it is dry, the plants here are ready for a drink.

7. Know your soil

A part of not overwatering your plants is understanding the nature of the soil where you live. Not all soils are the same, and this affects how you should irrigate it.

For example, light sandy soils will need more water since they dry out quicker whereas thick clay soils retain water better. Clay soils need watering less often, but they need heavier watering when you do it.

Also, when checking if the soil is moist or dry as described above, note that sandy soils may seem drier than they really are but don’t need watering. Conversely, clay soils may seem moist when they are actually ready to be watered. Learn about your soil to adopt an efficient watering schedule.

8. Use a moisture meter

If the idea of digging into the soil seems too imprecise, you can buy a moisture meter. You simply push the meter into the ground and it gives you a reading. Up to 30 percent means the ground is dry and needs watering and 30 to 70 percent means it is fine and doesn’t need watering.

Above 70 percent means you are overwatering your garden and you should consider cutting back.

9. Harvest water

This is a big one – by harvesting water and using water that is overwise simply discarded, you can significantly reduce your water bill.

The first thing to do is to set up a water butt. How much you collect depends on where you live and the climate there, but you can potentially harvest a huge amount of runoff water from your roof every time it rains.

The next thing you can do is to look at harvesting gray water. This is water that has been used for washing up or in showers or baths etc.

The usual detergents we use for washing dishes or for washing ourselves are harmless to plants – so just imagine how much water is literally going down the drain when it could be used for watering your garden.

Another great resource is the water you use for cooking. Water for boiling or steaming vegetable is full of nutrients from those vegetables. Pour it onto your plants for a free dose of fertilizer (obviously you need to let it cool down first).

10. Fix Leaks

Another vital but often overlooked aspect of water conservation is finding and fixing leaks. Over the course of a year, you can lose a huge volume of water if a leak goes unrepaired. Make sure you check all your faucets and hose pipes to ensure you are not losing water in this way.

11. Train your plants and lawn

Believe it or not, you can actually train your plants to use less water. We touched on this earlier when we talked about overwatering; by giving your plants less water, you encourage them to send their roots deeper in search of a drink.

This is especially important when it comes to lawns since they are usually the single most water-intensive element in your garden. By watering less frequently, you encourage deeper roots and train your lawn to rely on watering less. Again, deep roots also improve drought resistance.

Another tip is to let your grass grow a little longer, enabling it to store more water and nutrients in the blades. Also, make sure your lawnmower blades are sharp – clean cuts damage grassless, again, helping it stay healthy and more drought-tolerant.

12. Pay attention to pot choice

This is an area that some people might not think of, but your choice of pots also affects how much water you use.

Pots that heat up a lot (metal pots, for example) cause higher rates of evaporation. This, in turn, leads to increased watering.

Unglazed terracotta pots, on the other hand, are porous, and you will lose water through seepage.

Consider choosing more efficient pots. You can always place them inside other more attractive pots if you don’t like the look of them.

13. Pay attention to the forecast

Finally, make sure you pay attention to what the weather is doing! There is perhaps no bigger waste of water (or time, for that matter) than spending an afternoon watering your garden only for it to start raining once you finish.

If you keep an eye on the weather, you will know in advance which days you don’t need to water the garden – just let mother nature take care of it all for you.

You can also pay attention to longer-term provisions. As we already mentioned, in periods of drought, you should water the garden in preparation for the drought, not once it is already upon you. By paying attention to the forecast, you can pre-empt any extended dry periods.

Conserving Water In Your Garden – Simple Steps for Big Savings

None of the tips we have talked about here are particularly complicated or difficult to implement. With a little thought about your water consumption, there are lots of ways for you to use less. And, this will bring big benefits to the environment – as well as to your pocket.

This article originally appeared on May 17, 2019, and is being reposted with permission. Water – Use It Wisely is proud to feature guest bloggers who write about topics related to water and water conservation. The author of this blog post, Peter Weeks, is the writer of The Daily Gardener.

According to Peter, “Gardening has always been my passion, nothing gives me quite the satisfaction that feeling the soil sift through my fingers does. Give me a spade, a shovel, and a rake, and I can happily while away the day transforming a patch of land into a beautiful oasis. To me, gardening is life. It’s not a career. It’s not a job. It’s something that I truly love doing. It’s a way of life, a passion that I’ve no intention of ever giving up.”


The post Conserving Water In Your Garden — 13 Essential Tips appeared first on Water Use It Wisely.

Water Conservation Matters and It’s In Your Hands

When you stare out at the ocean or turn on your kitchen faucet, it’s easy to believe that water is an infinite resource. The truth is that clean drinking water is very limited. In fact, only one percent of the water on earth is suitable for human consumption. Sadly, this water is being polluted so quickly that it is difficult to maintain an adequate water supply in some areas. In just more than a decade, nearly half of the world’s population will live in a high water stress area. Water conservation matters and is the best strategy to ensure water availability for all.

First, seek out seconds

There are many ways we can conserve water, from turning off the faucet when you brush your teeth to using the rain to wash your cars. While these small actions will certainly add up, there are other things you can do that will have an even greater impact. One of these is to simply avoid buying things new. Instead, look to the second-hand economy before you invest in anything. Gumtree explains, “The second-hand economy is a multi-billion dollar sub-industry which helps reduce waste from landfill and brings communities together. Any time you sell, swap, buy or donate a used item, you’re part of the second-hand economy.”

Shop used book sales or check out the newest read at your local library. Your library might also have an online digital site if you prefer to read your books electronically.

Buying — and or selling — second-hand makes a lot of sense when you consider how much water it takes to produce new items. That vintage-style T-shirt you’re wearing took around 713 gallons just to make it to the store shelf. A quick trip to your local thrift shop or a weekend perusing yard sales in your neighborhood would have presented you with equally appealing apparel that would’ve saved enough water to meet a single person’s needs for seven full days. Larger items take even more water to produce, with a single vehicle requiring 39,000 gallons to make it from the production line to your driveway, according to Automotive World.

Old advice still applies to the new world

It’s worth mentioning that recycling is also still an effective way to eliminate both water consumption and to reduce the strain on our waterways. Gemini Research News has covered the issue of plastic clogging up lakes and rivers extensively. These freshwater contaminants might look harmless, especially considering that we drink from these very same bottles. However, in the long term, plastic breaks down into microplastic, and the truth is that we really aren’t sure how that affects the environment.

Make sure to utilize your curbside recycling bin, and remember that plastic bottles and aluminum cans aren’t the only materials that can be recycled. Aside from these, newspapers are also candidates for recycling and, as Waste Management reports, one ton of newsprint saves 7,000 gallons of water along with 15 trees and 71 gallons of oil. Glass, metals, and any plastic with the recycling symbol can also be added to the pile, and therefore kept out of the landfill. It is a good idea to check with your local municipality for more information about what’s accepted in their recycling program.

Yes, it’s that important!

Water conservation is one of the most important things you can do for yourself, your home, your family, and the world. Protecting our natural resources is also crucial for plant and animal life, and conserving water is one of the best ways to save energy (and money). Focused conservation efforts may even help solve Florida’s widespread sinkhole problems.

You don’t have to change your lifestyle to make water conservation a part of your life. But, small actions, such as buying used instead of new and recycling what you can, will go a long way toward ensuring that water remains an available resource for our children and grandchildren.

Looking for other ways to integrate conservation into your lifestyle? Check out these articles:

Water – Use It Wisely is proud to feature guest bloggers who write about topics related to water and water conservation. The author of this article, Neil Stawski, believes we aren’t doing enough to protect our planet. He created to educate the public and help people get smart about climate change. 

The post Water Conservation Matters and It’s In Your Hands appeared first on Water Use It Wisely.

Jaci Jensen | 602-295-6797 Contact Me
17215 North 72nd Drive, Suite 115 - Glendale, AZ 85308
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