Gardeners in Phoenix, Ariz., can grow a wide variety of great plants and Paul Haendler has taken full advantage of this opportunity. In the eight years he has been living there, his 3,750-square-foot backyard has been transformed into an edible jungle. And why not? With year-round growing conditions, a gardener's only limits are land, energy and vision.
Like many southwestern gardeners, Paul plants annuals twice a year. The spring garden season begins in early March and usually ends by the first of July. During this time he plants the usual cast of characters: tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, carrots, beets, cabbage, lettuce, snapdragons and petunias. By midsummer, it's too hot for most of these plants, and Paul's gardens take a two-month rest. Planting begins again in early October, and his winter garden thrives right through February, sometimes overlapping with spring planting. In this winter garden, Paul grows many of the same vegetables and flowers as he does in spring, but usually doesn't plant root crops because of the shorter season.
Paul's favorite thing about gardening in the desert is the fruit he can grow. Listening to him describe his lemons, plums, peaches, oranges, tangelos, grapefruits, figs, grapes and blackberries makes the mouth water. "We have virtually no lawn left," says Paul. "I've kept a little patch in the front yard only because my wife likes it."
Paul's pride and joy is his pond. Four years ago he dug a 10-foot diameter koi pond. "I hand-dug the hole, set a plastic liner in, and collected desert rocks to place around the pond," he says. "The rocks give the pond character and the koi a place to hide and stay cool from the hot sun," he adds. The pond is close to the house, so he has planted culinary herbs such as basil, dill, parsley and creeping rosemary, to cascade over the pond edge.
The one problem Paul has had with his pond is algae. "I tried chemicals to get rid of the algae, but after one week it was back. Plus, I hated using chemicals in the pond," says Paul. "I tried snails to eat the algae, but all they did was multiply and the algae was still there." Paul noticed the Barley Balls in the Gardener's Supply catalog. "I thought they seemed a little hokey, but worth a try." They worked great. "Within a few days the pond was clear and by refilling the balls every six months, I've had a clear pond ever since," he says. It's so simple, just float the barley ball in the pond and it takes care of the algae without harming the koi or plants.
Water is obviously a big concern in Phoenix. Gardener's Supply products have helped Paul water efficiently with a minimum of effort and expense. While Paul has a drip irrigation system to water his trees, he waters his vegetable and flower beds with six 5-foot-tall sprinklers on a timer.
Paul uses a Coil Hose and watering wand to maneuver through his intensely planted yard with ease, spot-watering containers, roses, shrubs and trees. He uses self-watering containers in various places around the edges of his garden, choosing the location based on whether the plants need to have full sun, some shade, or all shade. The water reservoir inside these planters gives him a break from the sometimes twice a day watering that container plants usually require in mid-summer.
All in all, after 22 years in Arizona, this Iowa farm boy has not only learned the ropes of gardening in a dry climate, but has mastered them. Paul has planted almost every available inch of his yard, and is very happy to be maintaining and enjoying such a delightful garden.
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