Conservation Corner – June 2014

According to a paper published in Science in November 2013, the dry regions of the world will become drier, whereas the wet areas will become wetter. This prediction is supported by Grace satellites that have measured declining groundwater reserves worldwide between 2003 and 2012 because of long term droughts. Arizona has been in a drought pattern since 1996. Sun Lakes is at risk because we depend mostly on underground aquifers for our water supply. Since over 60-70 percent of our water consumption is outside our houses – mainly in our landscapes, conservation in our yards should be the easiest way to prolong our water supply.

The city of Chandler also supplies water to a part of Ironwood and is actively engaged in water conservation efforts. Chandler estimates some of their residents may overwater their landscapes by 400 percent. Over-watering encourages excessive growth, diseases and other maintenance problems. Deep, infrequent watering encourages strong healthy root systems that can better tolerate intense heat and periods of drought. The depth to water depends on the size of your established plant. For small plants such as groundcover, cacti and annuals, water to a depth of one foot; two feet for medium plants such as shrubs; and three feet for larger plants such as trees. You can measure the depth watered with a soil probe, a sharpened piece of rebar, or a long screwdriver. About an hour after watering, push the probe into the soil. It will slide easily through wet soil but will be difficult or impossible to push through dry soil. The frequency of watering depends on the season and how well adapted the plant is to desert. For detailed watering guidelines, please check the Chandler website given below.

You can still enjoy beautiful landscaping, as shown by in the accompanying photo of this IronOaks yard that has no irrigation and where the plants have survived on only whatever rain we have gotten in the last 19 years. The plants in this yard are desert-adapted red yucca, ocotillo, bottlebrush, hedgehog, golden barrel cactus and fishhook barrel cactus. Arizona has many drought tolerant plants since in the last 1000 years the state has had infrequent rain and plants have adapted to multiple 30 year droughts. You can see a variety of other desert gardens by going to and choosing Water Wise Landscaping in Chandler. This website also provides extensive information about desert landscapes. When you choose a desert garden, you get beauty, conserve water and save labor.

Happy gardening!