Wow, it's been a long time since I've posted on the forum, but I've been busy.
Last fall, just about the time I wanted to start yard renovation, I heard about a Master Gardeners course being offered about 5 minutes away from my house and I thought, it sounded interesting so I took it. The class really was amazing and now I'm a Master Gardener who is fully aware of how little I actually know! I'm very fortunate that the University of Arizona Agricultural Center is here in town and have given the Master Gardeners a greenhouse, a small orchard and space for a demonstration garden. The MG group out here is small but growing and I'm getting to know the other gardeners. It's true that gardeners really are the nicest people.
They've allowed me to be project leader for the Garden in the Round which is about 30' across and laid out like a mandala. There's an outer circle, an inner circle and the center bed, and when you enter you just walk all the way through until you come out where you went in. No pathways cross each other and it has a very Zen feel to it. I've recruited a group and we're going to turn it into an herb garden. Pretty much all the rest of the space is devoted to various vegetable growing projects and it seems to me that no garden should be without herbs and flowers. I can walk through the empty garden and smell and feel the herbs and flowers that we haven't even planted yet. It will be amazing! The only herbs I've ever grown are basil and parsley so I'm very excited. We have a greenhouse where we cans start our seeds and there are other gardeners to consult with and we will learn together. Everyone is pretty committed to companion planting and integrated pest management so I don't think we will have any chemicals in the garden other than fertilizer - and I'm hoping that we will be able to grow the herb garden using nothing but compost and natural amendments.
My backyard still looks pretty much the way it did last spring. At first I was really disappointed that we couldn't put the yard in last fall, but now I'm so glad that we didn't. My husband keeps saying that the money we spent for me to take the class has paid him back many times over in all the mistakes I didn't make. I would have planted trees which would have been a disappointment and I would have put them in the ground incorrectly. You don't have to take a class to be a good gardener but when you're planting trees in the desert, it really helps if you know for sure which ones will grow in our horribly alkaline soil and be able to take the heat, the freezes and the brutal dust/wind storms that we have. I seriously underestimated the difference in growing conditions when we moved from the middle of a large urban area to a small town in the desert but have learned a lot since then. I've also connected with the Valley Permaculture Alliance and have found their forum to be full of amazingly nice and helpful people. Between the permaculture forum and the Master Gardeners, I think I have a much better chance of growing a productive and sustainable yard. I'm pretty excited about the possibilities and about all that I've been learning.
The landscaper that I was so excited about wasn't nearly as good as I thought she would be. She thought she knew a lot more than she actually did and was not very reliable. I'm glad now that it didn't work out so that I can put what I've learned over the last 6 months into practice without having to undo unnecessary mistakes. When I saw the yards that she had done I knew that she was not going to be the right person for us. If we do our own demo and get the ground prepared then all we really will need is someone to put in a good drip system. Now that I've taken the MG course, I'll know what we really need in a watering system and how to use it properly - not an insignificant achievement when you live in a desert. We can plant our own trees and the satisfaction we will have will be well worth the work.
I could be that no one is interested in what I'm doing out here in the middle of the Arizona desert, but just in case...