Brittle Bush

Brittle Bush 002One of the most common plants in the desert is the Brittle Bush. The Brittle Bush is a small round shrub that rapidly grows 2 to 5 feet high. It produces silver-gray leaves which grow 1 to 4 inches long and are covered by tiny hairs that insulates and traps moisture. This blanket of hairs also protects the shrub from extreme temperatures. A member of the sunflower family, it produces bright yellow flowers from it’s woody branches during the months of March through June.

The Brittle Bush is very easy to maintain. Little to no water is ideal for survival, however some precipitation is required during prolonged dry periods. Full sun is recommended for reflecting the heat.

After the Brittle Bush blooms in June, trimming and removing flower heads should be removed to promote new growth.IMG_1147

Less Water – Healthy Plants

A nice looking landscape with less water?

lantanaA good majority of water consumed in the average home is applied to the landscape. With some attention and basic knowledge it’s highly likely that you can reduce your water usage and still maintain a healthy landscape. Once new plants become established (one growing season for shrubs and two for trees) they can live on less water than you think, the trick is determining the threshold.


Here are a few tips:

1. Make sure your system is not leaking. With everything off, inside and out, observe the dial on your water meter (usually located in the front yard), if it’s still turning, there is water leaking.

2. Cap off emitters to the desert adapted trees (Palo Verde, Ironwood, Mesquite). Their roots are extensive and normally receive enough water from surrounding shrubs.

3. Now, to determine the threshold, turn your water off to the plants. Then, over the next several days, pay special attention to shallow rooted plants like Lantana or Bursage (these are the ones that need the most frequent water). Look for signs of wilting on the leaf surface. This may take a few days in the summer, or in cooler weather, may stretch to weeks. Count the days until you notice the wilt, (this is your threshold) this will give you an idea of how many days you can go between water cycles. The optimum programming is to apply water just before the wilt point of the neediest plants (smaller, shallow rooted) on that particular irrigation zone.

4. The same idea can be performed in the turf. The added difference here is, the grass will usually dry up in selected areas. These are the locations to focus in on as they are probably receiving less water, indicating that the system is unbalanced. Balancing the system usually involves adjustments to sprinkler nozzles, head heights and head spacings. Improving the balance is worth the effort. A balanced system can mean saving a water cycle or two per week. Note: for equal areas of granite (with drip irrigation) and turf, turf requires 4-6 times the amount of water.

5. Adjust your program with the seasons. May to the beginning of monsoon season are the heaviest months. With increased humidity (usually mid July through August) systems programs can be reduced by 10-25%. Spring and fall can be reduced 25-50% off the heavy months, with winter months 75 to 100%.

6. Take advantage of every rainfall. Turn your clock to the “off” or “rain” position and monitor for the wilting point before reactivating.

7. Keep a log of your cycles per week. Monitor the current usage on your water bill and compare with your watering cycles and previous month’s usage.

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Weeds Are Among Us

main-weed_imgSoaking rains bring much needed water to our desert environment, including plants. Rainwater is especially beneficial to plant material as rainwater is less alkaline than our irrigation water. While rain is a positive thing for our plants and irrigation water bills, it also helps weeds grow. For effective weed control in your yard, manual removal is the easiest way to get rid of a small number of weeds. To control weeds over a large area, herbicides are the most efficient tools available. There are two categories of herbicides for weed control: Pre-emergent and Post-emergent.

Pre-emergent herbicides:

Pre-emergent herbicides are designed to prevent seeds from germinating in the soil. They are most effective when applied during the rainy season. In Arizona, that means either before the summer monsoon in June & July and from October through January to take advantage of the winter rains. A timely application of pre-emergent can greatly reduce the number of weeds that germinate since it inhibits the weeds’ roots and does not allow them to grow.


Post-emergent for winter and spring weeds:

Post-emergent herbicides kill weeds that have germinated and are visible in the landscape. To kill weeds in winter months, you need to use a herbicide containing Diquat.

Spectracide products, which contain Diquat, are available for personal use at most home improvement stores or nurseries.

Post-emergent winter

Post-emergent for summer weeds:

Spring and summer are the best times to use Roundup concentrate. Be careful not to spray weed killer on plants or turf as the weed chemical is absorbed by the leaves and travels through the plant. These products cannot differentiate between plants and weeds. Additionally, this type of weed killer does not instantly kill the plant.  If you spray the weed and then remove it, any remaining roots may not have time to absorb the weed control spray.

Post-emergent summer

*Product label design and prices may vary. These products are Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved and have been deemed safe and reliable. No license is needed to apply most herbicides on your own property. DLC trains and maintains a crew of applicators to safely transport and apply these herbicides in your common areas. Our spray applicators are Licensed Pest Applicators by the State of Arizona Office of Pest Management. When dealing with any chemical, make sure to read the label and follow instructions carefully.


Caring for Frost Damaged Plants

How to Care for Frost Damaged Plants

frost on bougainvilleaThe time to clean up frost damaged plants arrived and many patient gardeners correctly watered. Those who hurried to prune the damaged parts out relied on chance and luck to make the proper cuts. Maybe they were lucky, maybe not.

Frost damage in plants results from the liquid inside individual cells freezing and forming ice crystals. The crystals then rupture the tough cell walls. When the cell walls open, the fluid inside will not be contained. So when the ice melts, the fluids simply rain out causing the classic ‘cooked spinach,’ wilted look.

Freeze damage is progressive within plants. The softest tissues like leaves and tender new shoots are hurt first. Tougher stem tissues and buds down from the tips withstand more damage but are not immune if the temperatures are lower and the duration is longer. Limp, dry and brown leaves damaged from frost stand out easily. Damage to stems and buds remains hidden for the most part.

Recognizing how far down the stem damage has occurred takes a trained eye or luck. Tissues may appear undamaged but the damage remains hidden until the spring flush of growth.

With this in mind, the wise gardener waits until the new growth starts in the spring to find the point along the branch where the damaged progressed. Once the spring growth happens, new growth on the branch marks exactly where the damaged stopped.

One important thing to remember – the more severe the damage the longer it takes for the older buds to emerge. Young, undamaged buds break and grow early. Buds laying in older parts of the plant need more warmth and other stimuli to begin to grow.

When you find the exact point down the stem, you can make the appropriate decision as to where to prune. Either cut about ½ inch above that bud if it’s going in the right direction or go further down and find another bud going in a better direction and cut it the same way.

This extra care and proper cutting helps the plants by directing its growth initially thus relieving later fix-up cuts that weaken a plant. Remember pruning is tough on plants. It removes leaves that make energy for the plant and the plant must expend energy to heal the wound.

frost damage