Thursday, November 8, 2018

Upcoming Co-op Workshops: Make Phoenix a Rainwater Haven

Did you know that you can join Watershed Management Group's Green Living Co-op, put in just 4 hours and get a 30% discount on our water-saving landscape services? Check out for more details and to sign up!
Pollinator Rain Garden in Apache Junction

Sat, Nov 10 @ 8 a.m.-1 p.m.
Near Goldfield Rd & Superstition Blvd
Register (We need 14 more people!)
Join WMG's Co-op to help reshape a desert backyard into a pollinator rain garden! You will learn about the different types of pollinator plants and how to properly plant them, the benefits of mulch and how to apply it, and how to use small rock to help reduce erosion.

Backyard Rain Garden

Sat, Nov 17 @ 8 a.m.-1 p.m.
Near 24th St & Indian School Rd
Register (Only 4 spots left!)
Help finish this Phoenix rain garden! We will be wrapping up the backyard by spreading a layer of wood chip mulch to retain the moisture and then begin working in the front yard. You will help plant a tree and vegetation to complete the front yard oasis. The heavy digging will be done prior to the workshop, so you can focus on the finishing touches to turn this urban front and backyard into an oasis!

Help Create a Pollinator Rain Garden

Sat, Jan 12 @ 8 a.m.-1 p.m.
Curry Elementary School, Tempe
Join in the fun at this educational work party and learn how to create a pollinator rain garden that will capture rainwater to help nourish native and desert-adapted, low-water plants.
The heavy digging will be completed beforehand so the day activities’ are focused on fine grading of the basins and berms, planting trees, shrubs and perennials that will provide shade, beauty, and attract the pollinators for years to come!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Desert Harvesting

As the temperature rises this summer, the bounty from our gardens fall.  But the desert begins to flourish with legumes from the palo verde, mesquite and ironwood trees!

At a recent D.I.G. class Master Gardener and desert forager Kelly Athena served up a variety of food harvested from palo verde and mesquite trees.  From the Palo Verde trees Kelly had harvested the little green flower bud clusters, pickled them and served as capers.  You can also harvest the yellow blossoms of the palo verde and use in salads or pancake batters.

Kelly Athena harvesting Palo Verde pods at 
U of AZ Maricopa County Cooperative Extension
  The big surprise for me was how sweet the palo verde beans are when picked in time.  They taste like a cross between a sweet pea and edamame.  From the mesquite trees Kelly had harvested the dry bean pods and demonstrated how to grind the entire pods into flour.  First she ran the pods through a grinder (coffee grinder or magic bullet blender), then shook the flour through a sifter, to sift out the hard bean fragments so that only a sweet smooth flour remains.  If you would like to start baking with mesquite flour the general rule of thumb is to use 1 part mesquite flour for every 3 parts baking flour.  Mesquite bean harvesting will start in June before the monsoon rains.  Ironwood tree bean pods ripen through June and July.
Harvesting bean pods from my blue palo verde tree, mid-May 2018

Vegan taco salad topped with blue palo verde beans!
Prickly pear fruit will be abundant to harvest in August and the pads can be harvested on and off throughout the year.
Harvesting prickly pear pads (nopales)
There are more opportunities to learn about desert foraging coming up throughout the summer.  See list below.

Scraping off thorns from nopales before cooking.
Upcoming Workshops -

Mesquite Presentation & Harvesting Demonstration Wed, May 30, 2018 6:00 PM - 7:30 PM Mesquite tree pods are some of our desert's greatest edible treasures. Mesquite flour has a low glycemic index and is rich in calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, and zinc. Come learn how to identify Mesquite trees and how to harvest, store, and process pods from Peggy Sorenson a Herbalist, forager, and teacher of edible and medicinal plant in the Desert Southwest.  This is an onsite talk and harvesting demonstration designed to help you to harvest from the mesquite trees you might have in your yard or neighborhood. Pre-registration requested and suggested $15 donation upon arrival. To secure your registration, you are also welcome to donate in advance if you like.   Audubon Arizona| Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center | 3131 S Central Ave| phoenix, AZ 85040

Harvesting Bean Trees - Hosted by Cactus Kelly - Sunday June 3rd at 5 PM - 7 PM - We'll meet in the Ahwatukee Foothills in SE Phoenix and harvest Palo Verde, Mesquite, and Ironwood beans. I've found all three types ripe in my neighborhood! Learn to identify the trees, how to harvest, how to prepare to eat, and how to store them. Take some home with you. $10 per person. Exact address given upon receipt of payment. Buy tickets HERE. Led by Kelly Athena, master gardener and desert forager

Desert Harvesters in Tucson has a whole series of workshops now through December covering topics such as harvesting and cooking with palo verde, mesquite, and ironwood bean pods, to prickly pear harvesting, milling mesquite flour, harvesting amaranth, cinchweed and desert lavender,  harvesting wolfberry, hackberry and condolia.

Cactus Kelly - Stay tuned for more opportunities to forage in the desert with Kelly Athena at her FB page

Superior Prickly Pear Festival - Saturday, August 18th, downtown Superior.  Learn to make prickly pear syrup and jellies, see cooking demos using prickly pear, and stay cool with a prickly pear margarita!

Available at

Friday, May 4, 2018

Let Watershed Management Group Help You Conserve Water and Energy!

Have you been wanting to start harvesting rainwater but the task seems daunting?  Let Watershed Management Group help you get started. WMG is seeking Co-op Workshop hosts who want to jump start their urban oasis, grow food more effectively, and conserve water and energy! An experienced WMG instructor will work with you to develop a design and lead a group of volunteers to implement green-living systems in a work party setting.  Co-op volunteers provide the labor, so you only need to pay for the instructor's time (at a discounted rate!) and materials.
Ryan Wood in the midst of a WMG Co-op Workshop

For more information on hosting a Co-op workshop, click here or contact Phoenix Program Manager Ryan Wood at or 602-618-6650.

One of the Co-ops I personally attended was to build a passive solar-cooling arched trellis on the west side of a home in central Phoenix.  The job was amazingly organized and everyone learned a lot from the hands-on experience.  I was so impressed by the results that we built an identical trellis on the west side of my home!  My grapevines have a happy home and the bedrooms on the west end of my house are cooler.
Here are a few photos from the WMG Co-op Trellis build :
All the tools needed to bend the re-bar were provided by the Co-op, and the
materials were all there and ready for the build to begin!
A few Co-op members had experience in building a trellis with re-bar
and cattle panels, so there was no guess-work. They showed us newbies
how it was done and put us to work.
Even the home-owner's Dad took part, and gave his seal of approval!

Here's a recent pic of my solar-cooling trellis, built based on Watershed Management Group's design:

See what the Watershed Management Group's Co-op has been doing to transform landscapes around the Valley:

Upcoming Watershed Management  Group Classes and Workshops:

Labor with Your Neighbor: Create a Courtyard Rain Garden on Fri, May 18, 7 a.m.-12 p.m. - Join us and help transform a courtyard landscape into a beautiful and functional rain garden that will slow, spread, and sink the water where it's needed to nourish the plants. You will learn how to create raised planting areas using retaining blocks, how to create sunken pathways edged with materials the home owner has collected over the years, and how to create an additional sponge for the rain by using wood chip mulch on the sunken pathways. If you are available on Friday, May 18 and would like to learn how to make the most out of a small space this workshop is for you!  Near 15th Ave and Myrtle Ave in Phoenix. Register ahead of time!
Hydrate Mesa: Hydrate Your Yard - May 1, 2018 - 05/1/2018 6:00 PM
 Hydrate Your Plants - May 8, 2018 - 05/8/2018 6:00 PM
 Hydrate Your Food - May 15, 2018 - 05/15/2018 6:00 PM
 Cruise the Canals - 05/19/2018 9:00 AM
 Hydrate Your Soils - May 22, 2018 - 05/22/2018 6:00 PM
 Hydrate with Greywater - May 29, 2018 - 05/29/2018 6:00 PM  

Monday, April 30, 2018

Ollas, Wicking Beds, and Sub-Irrigated Pipes! Who Knew?!

 I thought that I was doing everything possible to conserve water in my desert garden by harvesting rainwater, using drip irrigation, and heavily mulching my entire garden with huge loads of wood chips from Chip Drop.  That was until I attended Julie Knapp's Alternative Watering Techniques class last week at D.I.G. - Desert Institute of Gardening.  There I learned that I could reduce my garden watering consumption by up to 50% by using ollas, wicking beds, sub-irrigated pipes, and watering stakes.  Wow!

Ollas are clay vessels that you bury underground and plant your veggies around.  You keep the olla full of water and the water seeps through the clay and feeds the roots of nearby plants.  I am most intrigued by the automated olla system Julie introduced in class.  This system can easily be hooked up to a rain barrel!

Julie holding small hand-made ollas connected to drip lines for use in
an automated olla system.

You can make your own ollas with some silicone and clay pots as shown above, or you can buy them from a company in Tucson called Cutting Edge Ceramics

Another watering method from class that excites me are the wicking beds made using sub-irrigated pipes.  This too could be fed with water from a rain barrel.  What a great way to extend the use of my collected monsoon rainwater this summer!

Julie Knapp showing the perforated pipe wrapped in landscape fabric,
and a container for a wicking bed garden.

Master Gardener and desert forager Kelly Athena
starts building her own olla in class.

Making the ollas was fairly simple. First we used silicone to glue a glass marble over the drain hole in the bottom pot.  Then we sanded the rims of the pots to smooth out any imperfections so the rims would lay evenly together.  Next we spread silicone around the rim of the bottom pot and pressed the top clay pot down over the bottom pot. The final step was sealing around the outside with more silicone. 
Students in class using silicone and 2 clay pots
to build their olla.

If you decide to make your own olla, be sure to let it dry overnight, and test it before using it by soaking it in a bucket of water to look for leaks.  When you bury the pot, leave a few inches exposed above the mulch and after filling put a rock or pot tray over the hole to slow evaporation and keep bugs out.

Another watering method Julie introduced to class was watering stakes.  I had seen these before in gardening departments but thought that they would simply clog with dirt and be ineffective.  But Julie pointed out that there is a mesh inside to prevent the pipe from getting clogged with dirt.

 You can also make your own watering stakes/pipes by drilling holes in  2 inch PVC pipes and capping each end. Leave the top cap unglued so you can run the drip line through it.  Wrap and seal the tube with landscape cloth to keep the dirt out.  What a great way to ensure that you are deep watering your trees!

I will be implementing these methods into my garden over the coming months and will be blogging in more detail about automated ollas and wicking beds so stay tuned!

To learn more from Master Gardener Julie Knapp, read her blog -
The Transplanted Gardener.

Another great class from D.I.G. - the Desert Institute of Gardening - is coming up this Sunday May 6th, from 2pm to 4pm -  Harvesting Desert Bean Trees for Food & Medicine - Master Gardener Kelly Athena will give you a hands-on experience in becoming a desert forager of the three important bean trees in our area: Mesquite, Paloverde, and Ironwood. You will get to taste the beans and take away recipes for flour, syrup, jelly, edamame, tea, and more!

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Speak Up for More Trees in Phoenix

Go to and scroll down to see times and dates of district budget hearings.
Citywide Hearing (Spanish/English), April 11, 2018, 8:00 PM at Maryvale Community Center, Auditorium, 4420 N. 51st Avenue
Residents are invited to attend community hearings to discuss the City Manager’s Trial Budget before final decisions are made. At the hearings, residents will have an opportunity to comment and make suggestions.  Phoenix City Council members and staff from the City Manager's Office, Budget and Research Department, and other city departments will be available to answer questions.  This public discussion is among the reasons the city's budget so closely matches the community's highest priorities each fiscal year.

Residents may review and submit comments on the 2018-19 proposed budget at the city’s website at

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Plant Selection

When I began to gradually transform my Mediterranean landscaped yard to a desert landscaped yard, the booklet "Landscape Plants for the Arizona Desert" was my bible.  As I would debate over what plant to put where, this guide was indispensable.  It allowed me to see at a glance what plants could take reflected heat from the swimming pool, which ones were low-water use, what season they are in bloom, how wide and tall they would grow,  and what wildlife they may attract!  Now there is an online version that has even MORE information!  See

The city of Chandler has an awesome interactive landscaping tool online that also makes it easy and fun to plan changes to your landscape.  See



Other excellent desert plant selection and care guides include:

The Arizona Low Desert Flower Garden - A Seasonal Guide to Bloom, Height, Color, and Texture by Kirti Mathura - The Arizona Low Desert Flower Garden features easy-to-use tri-cut flip pages that make it a snap to compare height, color, and growing season of hundreds of low desert plants. At-a-glance symbols indicate water requirements, along with whether the plants attract birds, butterflies, or caterpillars.

Pruning Planting and Care
by Eric Johnson

Pruning Planting and Care by Eric Johnson

Virtual Library of Phoenix Landscape Plants

Desert Botanical Gardens Gardening Guides

Also see Mountain States Wholesale Nursery  The plant care guides at this site are the ones posted at Desert Botanical Garden's bi-annual plant sales alongside each plant.

Upcoming Plant Sales:

Boyce Thompson Arboretum Spring Plant Sale 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. March 10 - 25 - A fundraising sale of trees, shrubs, herbs, flowers, cacti and succulents. Need planting and landscaping advice? Arboretum staff are joined by helpful volunteers from Pinal County's Superstition Mountain Master Gardeners program, there to advise and assist buyers with suggestions for trees and smaller plants ideal for a wide range of landscaping projects.  Special events during the March plant sale include lectures, guided tours and weekend wildflower walks; most are included with daily admission of $12.50.

Desert Botanical Garden Spring Plant Sale  Saturday, March 17 | 7 a.m. - 5 p.m., Sunday, March 18 | 7 a.m. - 3 p.m. Prepare your garden for the season at the annual Spring Plant Sale. Choose from more than 30,000 plants, including cactus, succulents, trees, shrubs, groundcover, herbs, veggies, perennials and other oddities.

AZRFG Spring Plant Sale  on Saturday, March 31 at 8 AM - 12 PM Hosted by Arizona Rare Fruit Growers - at The Rose Garden at Mesa Community College, 1833 W Southern Ave, Mesa, Arizona 85202

Upcoming Master Gardener Training - Master Gardener Initial Training classes are taught by University of Arizona Cooperative Extension faculty, industry professionals and other horticulture experts. The program teaches the fundamentals of selecting, installing, and maintaining healthy, appropriate landscapes and gardens for the Arizona low desert.The cost of the 17-week training is $275.00.  University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, 4341 E. Broadway Rd., Phoenix, AZ 85040  THE APPLICATION FOR THE FALL 2018 EVENING SESSION IS NOW AVAILABLE!

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Watering Tips for Desert Dwellers

See online version. or look for this
free guide at your local nursery.

Week 6 of the Master Gardener program covered watering.  Here are a few pointers -

1. We are probably all over watering our yards, especially if you have desert landscaping.  Big lush brittlebush popping up through your yard is a sign that you are over watering.

2. We need to move our drip emitters farther away from the trunks of our trees and shrubs out to the drip line (the outer canopy). The reason is that not all roots are water absorbing, the parts of the roots that absorb water are the feeder roots and they are out at the farther edges of the trees canopy, so that's why you need to move your emitters out farther.

3.  Learn how to operate your irrigation control box and change the settings at least 4 to 6 times throughout the year changing with the seasons.

4. Put on new emitters where you don't know the flow rate.

5. has a landscape watering guide and interactive online tutorial on how to water your landscape properly.

6. Try attaching a filter to your system to keep chlorine, calcium and salts contained in city water away from your plants and soil.  Available locally at GreenLife at a great price!

7. If you are really an avid gardener, and are buying a home in the valley, look for one in a neighborhood with flood irrigation. Its the best irrigation method and it's cheap! Flood irrigation water is river water, full of nutrients, no chlorine, flushes salts away from the tree root zones, and keeps salts from building up in the soil.

8. If you are not blessed with flood irrigation, the next best thing is rainwater harvesting.  The benefit is not just what you store in your tank, but that you can redirect the flow of water off  of your roof and into your garden and out to your trees.  Slow it, spread it, and sink it is the mantra of rainwater harvesters.

There are a lot of great rain water harvesting classes and workshops coming in the next few months!

City of Tempe Water Harvesting Class  Saturday, April 7 at 9 AM - 1 PM · Join us for a free class that will introduce you to strategies for using rainwater and greywater in your landscape. We'll teach you how to design your landscape to "plant the water" using rain gardens, rain tanks and greywater systems so you can grow lush plants, while saving money and water! vHosted by Watershed Management Group location - 1400 N College Ave, Tempe, AZ 85281

Rain Barrel Workshops and Giveaway on Saturday, May 5 at 10 AM - 2 PM - Tempe Water Conservation presents a Rain Barrel Workshop and Giveaway at the Historic Eisendrath House on May 5, 2018. Four workshops featuring a live demonstration of how to build and install a rain barrel will be offered starting at 10AM, 11AM, 12PM, and 1PM. Attendees need only attend one demonstration to receive a free 55-gallon barrel to take home. All attendees will also have the chance to tour The Historic Eisendrath House for Water Conservation where sustainable practices are on display. · Hosted by Project Rain Barrel - River Network and Watershed Management Group. Location - Eisendrath House, 1400 N College Ave, Tempe, Arizona 85281

Water Recycling - Saturday June 9th - 11:00AM at Tempe Public Library - Slash your water bills by learning to implement gray water recycling in your home! Do you have a pond or garden that could use rain water to keep it living? Did you know you can collect dew?  Join Garden Pool and the Tempe Public Library to learn all about water recycling: how to capture, store, and reuse rain, dew, and gray water. Hosted by Garden Pool  Location: TPL Meeting Room A, Tempe Public Library, 3500 S Rural Rd, Tempe, Arizona 85282