Life began in a garden.
It’s planting season in Phoenix and most have prepared our lawn for winter rye – the most vibrant pretty grass that the rest of you enjoy year-round. We aren’t so lucky, but we are fortunate to have two planting seasons here so I’ll take that.
I wanted to answer some FAQs about gardening that I often get, and also design questions about our backyard that might be helpful for some of you – whether you are preparing for your own backyard this fall or next spring! I love to help others so if you ever have questions please DM me through Instagram or ask on the blog, you are never bothering me and I could talk home and garden all day! I am by no means an expert or master gardener so I am just sharing the experiences I’ve had keeping things alive and accidentally killing things and sharing some backyard projects with you.
How did you create your jasmine vine wall?
This is probably the most popular question because it’s a pretty focal point of our backyard and is a great way to disguise a huge blank wall! We had a handyman do this but you can easily do it because I ended up doing it myself for the front of our house.
Get the right drill to go through cinderblock, add anchor plugs (they are small) and screw in eye screws and string the wire through.
The wall faces east and we put in a drip irrigation. I bought the jasmine vines very small and separated them and trained them to go up the wires. I would tie them as they grew and trim them. It can go crazy so we have to really trim them back twice a year. I hired some help, Jill is a great help for us and comes to trim a few things up and I like that she doesn’t have an attachment to things like I do so she can do her job and do it well! She helps with our rose and citrus pruning.
How did you build your garden beds?
This postI bought these raised bed corners that are 10″ in height (multiple heights) and you just slide in the planks of wood at whatever length you want.
This post discusses how to start a garden bed which also shows before and after photos of our garden area.
What do you plant for fall?
For Phoenix around October I plant Artichoke starters to prepare for spring harvest, lots of flowers, new geraniums (of course and usually in the color pink), carrots by seed and lettuce by seed. I will no longer be planting lettuce to eat, but maybe to just fill up the beds (more on that later). I also like broccoli. Kale is easy too and I’d prefer it over lettuce because you can take bigger leaves and clean them easier than lettuce.
I don’t think growing lettuce is worth it to be honest – it’s so cheap at the grocery store and the fact that you have to check every leaf for bug, so you don’t inhale a caterpillar or ladybug, meh. I stopped wanting to make salad from my garden.
Failed attempts include peas and Brussel sprouts which just attracted a lot of aphids and never gave me anything in return. I grew radishes too but never liked eating them. I’ve noticed that I will try anything because it’s fun so it’s either to eat, or for aesthetics. If it goes, no big deal, I’ve had more failures that successes but I keep planting! If you live in Phoenix check out this planters guide it’s a chart that shows you by what month you should add starters or seeds.
What do you plant for spring?
Around end of February or early March when I know there’s no chance of frost, I plant tomato starters, sunflower seeds, zucchini, basil starters and that’s about it. The heat in Phoenix it’s too hot to really grow much so I let the garden go and go on vacation. I think that’s all you really can grow here in that heat and then I say good luck garden, byeeeee, I’m in vacay now!
What trees do you own?
We started with two grapefruit trees that were here when this area was a citrus farm. Both have since died being so old, and we removed an aprium and apple tree due to disease. So all of the trees you see now are what we’ve planted!
Fruit trees – pink lemon, lemon, kumquat, lime, mandarin orange. Shade trees – Chinese pistach, Sissoo, Red Oak, Two Chinese Elms, two Ash. Normal trees, like shade trees not fruit or nut trees live longer. The Sissoo and fruit trees are the only evergreen trees. I plant them in a specific spot where I’m OK with shade being there permanently, the rest fall for a few months in the winter so it’s great to have that winter sun. The Chinese pistach and Red Oak turns fall colors before they drop their foliage.
How did you learn how to garden?
I took a few courses and I just did it – I still kill things! For every one thingy you see thriving and living I swear two things have died before I got it right! I learned that the nursery doesn’t sell what is really in season, so don’t buy it just because they put out the veggies (it’s so frustrating and a waste of money!)
I took a few Urban Farm classes in Phoenix, I printed and follow the Vegetable planting calendar for Maricopa County and I also hire a horticulturist who comes and advises us on how the yard is doing and trees. I have wasted so much money killing plants but it’s just what it is in order to learn and it’s just plant, you can buy another one.
Don’t get frustrated or don’t assume it’s just because you don’t have a green thumb.
All you need to know is does that plant want a lot if water or shade, and what season to plant it, if it’s a perennial or annual (so you know if it’s sleeping or you killed it, or it’s past it’s life) and make sure you have it on a drip system to water it. If you think you’ll go outside every day to water it, you won’t and you’ll give up too quickly.
Where do you prefer to buy your trees and vegetables? Is a nursery better than a big box store?
In the state of Arizona plants have to be quarantined before they are sold to the public. Here is the list of places that do that (not really important to you). I recently photographed The Plant Stand which is a huge nursery stock holding area and learned they also sell to the local Lowe’s and Home Depot. I learned quite a bit during my time photographing the location for Phoenix Home & Garden. All this to say that it doesn’t seem to matter where you buy your plants initially (that’s what I was told). You’re getting the same plants at those places that you could get at a local nursery, so look for the better deal.
I have yet to find much difference between them. I do think however you have to be careful when you buy no matter where because big box stores and nurseries all do this – they sell veggies that won’t make it through our season. So if you can check the planting season for your zone (in this case Zone 9) you’ll save yourself a headache and money.
We choose to buy our trees at our local nursery that gives us a 1 year guarantee on any plants, shrubs and trees if we pay them to plant it for a small fee. This insurance has paid for itself over time. We’ve had $650 trees die and they replace it with a new one (a different variety) and it saves us time so I’m not digging holes. So with that said that might be worth it, but check with the stores for details before you buy.
If you’ve had a different experience I’d love to hear if you prefer nursery or big box. I do a mixture of the two and it seems to work out OK so far.
Info on those solar lights in your garden?
Found all this lighting on Amazon for super affordable price. Check out this post that links to all the info and how we did it. It’s super easy and I love our solar lights – make sure you put them in a place where it’s sunny like our backyard is south facing so we always have plenty light year round. We also live in Phoenix where there are over 300 days of sunshine so we have some good solar energy here!
Thanks for reading!