Rita Applegate’s backyard is where she goes to relax after a busy day in the Fountain Hills Community Garden, where she’s the Garden Manager. Her desert oasis is the result of imagining what she could do with a ho-hum yard.
“When I first moved into this home twenty-one years ago, the property had a lot of shrubs,” said Rita. “The landscape was high maintenance.”
Her “Before” pictures show an uninspiring yard that would make anyone yawn.
“My biggest challenge at first was learning how to landscape in the desert. I moved from Zone 6 to Zone 9-10. My landscaping options were so different here, and I learned right away that amending the soil as I planted was necessary,” said Rita.
Rita got to work learning her new climate and planting guidelines. She had to take her time planning for the spaces, including a steep front yard. Part of that process was taking classes to become a certified Master Gardener in Arizona.
“It took a lot of time and planning,” said Rita. “Creating my current home landscape required hours of research, and it took many years to finish because I was learning along the way.
“One of the things I always have to think about is choosing the right plant for the right space and the proper lighting conditions for that plant. I do my own maintenance, so time is of the essence when caring for my landscape.”
Rita says that one of the things she loves most about her backyard is the ease of maintenance.
“I’m usually swamped in March and October because that’s the best time to plant in the Valley of the Sun,” Rita said. “I’ve learned many lessons along the way. With careful planning, my yard stays beautiful, even when I’m busy. It lets me relax on my patio when I need to relax the most.”
Rita was so successful with her own yard that she now offers landscape consulting to help others make good first choices. She also jumped in head first when the Community Garden was still just a dream. In 2020, she was given the Legacy Award from the Lower Verde River Hall of Fame for her work in the Community Garden.
Rita loves to share three valuable tips for people who want to turn their own backyard into something special:
- Always know the mature size of the plants you select. In Zone 9-10, plants grow faster because they can grow year-round.
- If you have a pool, choose clean plants for the pool area. For example, succulents and cacti and low-litter options.
- Color and texture were important to me, and low-water needs are essential for water conservation in the desert.
You can reach out to Rita Applegate through the Fountain Hills Community Garden. Visit the website at: https://www.fountainhillscommunitygarden.com .