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29 Jul 2014

The Potted Desert Garden: The Fifth Week Is Here Again

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The old house had a lot of pots. The old house had a lot of pots.

We find ourselves with a fifth Tuesday this month. That means there’s time to reflect on … the heat? No, we’re all tired of that subject.

Instead, I will tell you about some of the changes I have recently made in my life—and share with you my new minimal garden. Since 1996, my partner and I had lived in a house which had no garden when we moved in. Our front and back yards became the spawn of my business, The Contained Gardener, and quickly grew from three pots to more than 50 during the high point!

We decided this spring that we were ready to downsize and that we would sell our home after returning from a cruise in May. We also decided to rent for a while in order to decide what’s next. We lucked out and found a home in a community that has a reasonable back yard and a great view!

Not wanting to run irrigation again (due to renting, a desire to reduce water bills and to save my time), we only brought seven cactus pots with us. (See below.) We have a lovely little yard, a great view … and SQUIRRELS! A mesquite tree and a shed share the space with us. Well, a squirrel created a lovely hole and mound that interfered with the back gate; other squirrels, although cute, were overrunning the yard and filling it with other holes.

I certainly did not want to use poison, so I read everything I could on the Internet and tried to make our yard less inviting to the squirrels. We removed the tree branches that went over the wall into the four-acre untended ranch behind us. (Those branches were a highway into the yard!) Then I stopped feeding finches and put up hummingbird feeders. The super-hole was filled with water, rocks, soil and moth balls in stockings, and then covered with more rocks. I also use pepper in areas where some of the younger squirrels like to munch on the bean pods of the mesquite tree.

I only have one regular visitor now, which is fine. When I clean up the bean pods, I toss them over the wall to the ranch land. I think he was too busy feasting over there to come yesterday!

I will let you know how all of this goes. We love the house, and the backyard is very peaceful. I am looking forward to the days when I can actually go out and sit for a while—in other words, when it cools down!

Marylee Pangman is the founder and former owner of The Contained Gardener in Tucson, Ariz. She has become known as the Desert’s Potted Garden Expert. Marylee is available for digital consultations, and you can email her with comments and questions at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Follow the Potted Desert at facebook.com/potteddesert.

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