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Desert Gardening: Work with the Environment

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Lowe’s Desert garden expert shares strategies for working with the hot and dry Southwest climate rather than against it.

A colorful desert planting that saves water.

By Scott Calhoun

Rainwater harvesting basins following a summer storm.

Desert gardeners need to work with nature to succeed. I say this as much for the gardener’s sake as for the environment. If you work against nature, you end up shelling out several hundred dollars each month for a water bill or replacing inappropriate plants that have died. An environmentally friendly desert garden is the easiest and most economical to grow and maintain. Below are three tips for working in concert with the environment.

Southwest native cactus with spring blooms.

Saving Water

Water in our region is generally scarce and is getting more expensive each year. There are many ways to save water and still have a vibrant, interesting garden. Here are a few:

  • Eliminate or reduce the amount of turf grass in your garden.
  • Cluster plants with similar watering needs.
  • Collect rainwater that falls on your roof by channeling it into basins in your landscape (pictured above).
  • Increase the spacing between your plants.
  • Use a high proportion of cactus and succulents in your plantings.
globe mallow

Using Native Plants

In so many ways, landscaping with desert-native plants is just easier. They are already adapted to the weather, attract beneficial pollinators, typically resist the area’s pests and diseases, and tend to need less water.

In the Sonoran Desert, one way of growing natives is to sow native wildflower seeds. Wildflowers to grow from seed in the fall include brittlebush, desert bluebells, desert marigold, Mexican gold poppy, Parry’s penstemon, and globe mallow (pictured).

tree shading house

Cooling Your House with Trees

Planting appropriate shade trees on the west and southwest sides of your home can significantly reduce your afternoon cooling bills during the summer months. Select native desert species such as mesquite, palo verde, ironwood, and acacia trees.

There is a lot more to say, but if you begin with the goals I’ve mentioned, you’ll save water, enjoy the beauty and toughness of native plants, and help cool your home with trees.

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