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Overrun phoenix yard

 
Brady Saillant
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I got a house this year and the back yard had been "well kept" and was pretty much devoid of life other than the grass. It gets water pretty regularly because of the sprinklers so I decided to just let it grow and see what happened. The process was very beautiful to me as the weeds and bugs came and made the micro climates very visible. I'm a 21 year old who is very ambitious and often takes on many projects at one time. That being said permaculture was put on the back burner for a while due to distractions and laziness. Now I have a yard teeming with life ( weeds and grasses) that I want to employ for my human needs. I have some sheet mulched beds that I started earlier when the temps were cooler that contain herbs but that is all. Now the phoenix heat is already cranking up so keeping the mulch for any new beds wet is getting harder and harder. I also don't know what I should do with all the giant mallow plants I have and the giant thorny lettuce. I have my life more organized so I'm ready to take my yard seriously I'm just new to permaculture and I'm overwhelmed. Any tips on what to do next would be greatly appreciated
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
Posts: 2679
Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
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Hi Brady and welcome to permies!

I'm in Phoenix as well (Central Historic District) and Phoenix can be challenging for a permie!

Grass - I'm going to assume you have Bermuda grass? Bermuda is HARD to get rid of - I've lived and my house since 1998 and still battle spots of it. Note it is NOT dead when it goes dormant for the winter. Depriving it of water just makes the roots go deeper to search out water. The best thing you can do is start digging out areas and sifting out as many roots/stolons/rhizomes as you can. Learn to love it as this will be your hobby for the foreseeable future. And that's ok.

What human needs are you hoping to meet?
--food
--firewood
--building materials (even if it's for naturalistic outdoor projects)
--medicine
--passive heat and cooling
--wildlife corridor
--nectary for native pollinators

How "sustainable" do you want to be? I ask this because a lot of people grow food in the desert but they do so by using a LOT of water (a scarce and precious resource). There are also some dryland-specific methods you should be aware of, like growing in sunken beds instead of raised beds, capturing and reusing as many water resources on site as possible (rainwater, grey water, dark grey water, stormwater). And then there's our wonky seasons and what to plant when. Usually summer is our "down" time (limited things grow in our extreme heat).

You can check out a thread I started on the Valley Permaculture Alliance's website about understanding our climate and how to create more sustainable permaculture sites based on our limitations here: http://www.phoenixpermaculture.org/forum/topics/upping-our-game-and-creating-a-more-sustainable-phoenix-metro
 
Zach Muller
gardener
Posts: 777
Location: NE Oklahoma zone 7a
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bike books chicken dog forest garden urban
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Your tall spikey lettuce may be lactuca virosa or lactuca serriola both of which have a variety of uses. I can vouch for their good flavor and texture when boiled, very nutritious. The dried leaves make a good tasting tea as well.
 
Brady Saillant
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@Jennifer

I know I have some Bermuda grass but I have several different types that I don't know what they are. I'll try and get some pics up this weekend. but as far as human needs and sustainability, I'd say food is probably the most useful to me but really anything of value. I would say that entertainment is the main human need. I guess I like to see the land heal and transform foremost and see food as an end goal and added bonus. I really like the idea of wildlife corridor and nectary as well. I'm am willing to water a dedicated vegetable garden but overall I would like the majority of my yard to be native/drought tolerant. because it's not my house I can't really use the gray water but I wish I could. thanks for the link; I actually took the PDC course this year with valley permaculture alliance and that's what got me interested.

@Zach

That's awesome to hear about the lettuce. Did you pick the leaves before they flowered? I'm going to look into them more for sure.
 
You can thank my dental hygienist for my untimely aliveness. So tiny:
2017 Permaculture Design Course and Appropriate Technology Course at Wheaton Labs
http://richsoil.com/pdc
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