Sunday, April 10, 2011

"Seed and Harvest" Gene Kicks In

Spring has arrived and it has sparked my "seed and harvest" gene…the gene I tried to leave dormant for most of my life. It rose to the surface a few times during my life. I planted a small garden in Wisconsin where I grew tomatoes and zucchinis. I also designed my backyard landscape for my beautiful home in Tennessee. Since my German Russian ancestors lived off the land for centuries, I felt a strong connection to my family roots when I gardened. I remember my grandmother’s flower beds, the stories of my step-grandfather putting nails into trees to feed them iron, the raspberry bushes which edged the east boundary of Mr. Martin’s huge backyard garden. Part of my history...part of my family’s history.

Arizona is another matter. I’ve lived here for nine years but still don't have a sense of confidence about desert plants. The Sonoran Desert is a completely different climate and landscape. Until recently I had never heard the word “xeriscape.”

The seed gene began to sprout over a month ago when I registered for the "Pruning and Maintaining your Landscape" workshop led by Cathy Rymer, Water Conservation Coordinator for the City of Chandler. When I started the workshop I could name three of the plants in my backyard: palm trees, rosemary bushes and weeds. Now I can name about half of the plants. Best of all, this workshop was offered free by the City of Chandler.

My next venture was the Landscape class conducted by Ron Dinchak. He has been a Life Science Instructor at Mesa Community College for over forty years. For more information, check out His passion and enthusiasm for using plants native to an arid climate is infectious.

During Dinchak’s sessions over the past three Tuesdays, I have learned many things including: 1) I now recognize many more plants; 2) I know that the loofah does not come from the ocean; 3) and I have measured my yard completely so I will limit my selections to plants which will fit in these spaces at maturity. I am also the proud owner of elephants food and tomato plants. I also own loofah seeds! Check out to find out more about the loofah plant.

So, the climate and landscapes may change, but the deep desire to put down roots may be grounded in my agrarian genes. Whether it is growing wheat, sugar beets, grapes or palo verdes, the German Russian adapts to the soil and climate of their surroundings. I may even be inspired to learn to become an Arizonan Master Gardener. The seed is firmly planted now, waiting to see how much I water it and let it thrive in the desert. The "seed and harvest" gene wins every time.

P.S. According to, Xeriscape is defined as “quality landscaping that conserves water and protects the environment.” There are seven principles associated with Xeriscape landscapes:
1. Planning and Design
2. Soil Improvement
3. Appropriate Plant Selection
4. Practical Turf Areas
5. Efficient Irrigation
6. Use of Mulches
7. Appropriate Maintenance

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