How to Create a Desert Landscape | Ask This Old House

How to Create a Desert Landscape | Ask This Old House

Ask This Old House landscape designer Jenn Nawada heads to Phoenix to recreate the desert in a homeowner’s front yard.
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Time: 1 day
Cost: $2,000 and Up

Skill Level: Moderate

Tools List for Creating a Desert Landscape:
Shovel
Wheelbarrow
Hand truck
Level
Compacter

Shopping List:
Soil
Boulders
Variety of desert plants
Cardboard
_” stone
Modular pavers

Steps:
1. Dig out the outline of a walkway about 3’ wide and 3-4” deep. Give the outline a slight curve to add visual interest to the walkway.
2. To mimic the hills of the desert, shovel piles of soil onto the landscape into seemingly random mounds.
3. Determine a few locations to place boulders in the landscape. Dig holes in those locations about 4” deep and roughly the width of the boulder being placed.
4. Carefully load each boulder onto a hand truck, wheel it into position, and roll the boulder into its final place. Backfill around the hole to make it look like it really belongs there.
5. Stage the variety of desert plants across the landscape. Things aren’t really clumped together in the desert, so keep the plants spread out. Be mindful of when plants bloom, if ever, to have an even spread of color across the landscape.
6. Once each plant is in its desired position, plant them all with the shovel. Dig down just about as deep as the root ball and twice as wide.
7. To plant cacti, wrap a piece of cardboard around the needles and move the cactus only by holding onto the cardboard.
8. Give everything a good watering.
9. Put down a layer of _” stone on the outlined walkway and level it.
10. Compact the walkway with a compacter.
11. Lay down the pavers over the walkway base in a running bond pattern.

Resources:
In any landscape design, Jenn recommends looking for natural cues in the surrounding area to recreate in a controlled way in your yard. In this case, she identified an abundance of small stones coating the ground, plants spread far apart from each other, and undulating hills. Those cues informed the design in the homeowner’s front yard.

Jenn installed boulders, red yucca, lantana, bougainvillea, a few variety of cacti, and a Chilean mesquite tree. These can be found at nurseries, particularly in the Southwest region of the US and in zones 9 and 10.

Expert assistance for this segment was provided by Rod Pappas and Xeriscapes Unlimited, Inc. (http://xeriscapes.com), A-1 Materials Phoenix (http://www.a-1materialsrocksupply.com), All Season Nursery (http://www.allseasongrowers.com), and Horizon Irrigation (http://www.horizononline.com).

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Homeowners have a virtual truckload of questions for us on smaller projects, and we’re ready to answer. Ask This Old House solves the steady stream of home improvement problems faced by our viewers—and we make house calls! Ask This Old House features some familiar faces from This Old House, including Kevin O’Connor, general contractor Tom Silva, plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey, and landscape contractor Roger Cook.

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How to Create a Desert Landscape | Ask This Old House
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50 Comments

  1. Tamm on November 11, 2022 at 9:17 pm

    Hummingbirds love that honeysuckles! They could’ve replant it somewhere-else in the yard!

  2. Donald Erickson on November 11, 2022 at 9:20 pm

    Seeing this makes me homesick

  3. Janette Hammons on November 11, 2022 at 9:20 pm

    I also live in Az. But, I need a dog friendly yard. Any suggests? And what are some of the trees that will live here? Thank you

  4. Rayzor28 on November 11, 2022 at 9:21 pm

    I use those pavers in my business all the time. They’re called Belgard pavers if anyone was curious. Pro tip, set the border in concrete and rebar first and then cut in the rest of the pavers in the middle while setting them at a 45° angle to the house. It’s more work but it looks hella clean.

  5. Keinlieb on November 11, 2022 at 9:23 pm

    I put bushes right below my windows on purpose to create security. Criminal’s aren’t as likely to go through a window if they have to go through a thorny bush to get to the window.

  6. fred barnes on November 11, 2022 at 9:23 pm

    It looks like a west facing home. I bet someone put that honeysuckle in to block the AZ sun from coming in the bedroom and making it uninhabitable.

  7. Vincent Bar ringer on November 11, 2022 at 9:29 pm

    in 2022 that is 10g in material

  8. Brandon James on November 11, 2022 at 9:31 pm

    3:01 a flat yard is good lmao 🤦‍♂️

  9. k gonzalez on November 11, 2022 at 9:31 pm

    ….. native?? More like home depot starter pack

  10. Walter Malterre on November 11, 2022 at 9:33 pm

    can you guys do follow up videos? I’d really like to see how some of these home and yard projects turned out after some time.

  11. Prescott Fitness on November 11, 2022 at 9:35 pm

    pretty sure I’ve passed this house on my bike rides

  12. B Marie on November 11, 2022 at 9:36 pm

    I’m in high plains desert in Colorado and I just let things naturally grow and pulled what I didn’t want and in my opinion it’s looking naturally good 😃

  13. Mr. X on November 11, 2022 at 9:39 pm

    Always smart to remove shade from in front of your windows in Phoenix.

  14. rth on November 11, 2022 at 9:39 pm

    They could have cut back the honeysuckle without killing it. I do it all the time. The fact that they killed it really pisses me off. I have several in my front yard.

  15. Derek Lull on November 11, 2022 at 9:39 pm

    The camera guy wasn’t having the best day

  16. TeenaGeena Ballerina on November 11, 2022 at 9:40 pm

    I’m curious about watering this landscape, because I didn’t notice any irritation system. Did the homeowner use sprinklers, and how often?

  17. rth on November 11, 2022 at 9:40 pm

    I would not plant a mesquite that close to the house because of the roots

  18. Prakash Gudimetla Gudimetla Prakash on November 11, 2022 at 9:40 pm

    Very nice natural tea

  19. Smart Turf on November 11, 2022 at 9:40 pm

    Yes! awesome design!

  20. Martha McKinley on November 11, 2022 at 9:41 pm

    Big no I didn’t like it !!!

  21. ChineseNoodles on November 11, 2022 at 9:42 pm

    They talk about planting native then proceed to not plant a single native plant.

  22. Jose Arana on November 11, 2022 at 9:42 pm

    I live in North Carolina on the east coast and I love this desert look landscaping can I do this in here???

  23. Valerie Elfering on November 11, 2022 at 9:44 pm

    Bougainvillea 🤮 God, I hate those.

  24. D. Fras on November 11, 2022 at 9:44 pm

    What kind of granite is that? is that crushed granite or some other name, I need this for starters?

  25. Tomboy Dru on November 11, 2022 at 9:45 pm

    That honeysuckle could have been salvaged smh

  26. Spiritual Veganism on November 11, 2022 at 9:45 pm

    No one who actually uses a wheelchair would want a walkway that bumpy

  27. Ronni Paints on November 11, 2022 at 9:48 pm

    Boring

  28. JACKIE MARTIN on November 11, 2022 at 9:49 pm

    OMG I LOVE THE DESERT ❣️ so much so open & the sunny drenching days too ❣️❣️❣️❣️

  29. Margery Hinman on November 11, 2022 at 9:51 pm

    This looks so amateurish. The papers are the wrong type, they are uneven, the arc is not good, and just all around amateur looking. Very disappointing.

  30. murray andru on November 11, 2022 at 9:53 pm

    Great Job Jen !

  31. TrueToad on November 11, 2022 at 9:53 pm

    Excellent Learning I lived South of Tucson Arizona for many years, the desert is beautiful”

  32. THE INFINITY CALL on November 11, 2022 at 9:54 pm

    Honestly, the most offensive landscaping video I’ve ever seen. Did I just witness to people murder a gorgeous huge old honeysuckle bush by saying, take it out? And then they just proceed to murder it like it’s nothing? They purport to love plants in nature but this video says otherwise. Patently offensive. Philistines. Cretins. No connection to nature whatsoever. They’re just playing checkers out there.

  33. Dziadek on November 11, 2022 at 9:54 pm

    Their enthusiasm as well as the skidsteer were a little overkill for the situation

  34. Amanda Whitis on November 11, 2022 at 9:55 pm

    That tree though attracts bees like crazy!!!

  35. FloNation on November 11, 2022 at 9:55 pm

    Did you see the look on the guys face in the background with a blue shirt when they pull the honeysuckle bush out🤣

  36. Rain Dance Ranch on November 11, 2022 at 9:57 pm

    Don’t use the new gold lantana.. it’s not good in winter… the purple is much better… blooms profusely year round.. attracts butterflies. If you want a low grower… the reds and pinks are usually big. And I can’t recall if they look good year round or not, but I’ve lived with both new gold and purple… purple is better.

  37. Blue Unicorn on November 11, 2022 at 9:58 pm

    Why.

  38. Frank0020 on November 11, 2022 at 9:58 pm

    Liked look and the procedure except, for cutting the pavers. I’m not going to do that. Also, no needles.

  39. Cal on November 11, 2022 at 10:04 pm

    They did a beautiful job. The pavers look awesome. The plant choices were perfect. But they blocked the window again with the tree and planted it to close to the house. Those mesquite roots can wreak havoc on a foundation. I planted mine 15 feet away from my house.

  40. kevin juarez on November 11, 2022 at 10:05 pm

    Just wait till things grow I always see people fucking things up and not spreading them across they are not gonna stay little just wait till the plants start to have baby’s and start spreading or that tree rooting will cause a problem to the house down the line so much for being The Professionals.

  41. QuangThichDuc on November 11, 2022 at 10:08 pm

    Rahja would have been pissed, I didn’t see anyone rough up those roots.

  42. RvBadlands2015 on November 11, 2022 at 10:09 pm

    Chilean mesquite are not native to Arizona. The velvet mesquite and honey mesquite are native to Arizona.

  43. Kayinfso Here on November 11, 2022 at 10:11 pm

    Beautiful

  44. Gammareign on November 11, 2022 at 10:12 pm

    Actually, people who know anything about geography understand that mountains cause deserts via the "rain-shadow".

  45. Justin Waynoka on November 11, 2022 at 10:13 pm

    Everybody has been the guy at 2:42 at least once lol

  46. José Luis Sosa on November 11, 2022 at 10:13 pm

    I wonder what her girlfriend looks like 😉

  47. drinny26 on November 11, 2022 at 10:14 pm

    Beautiful but I can never live in the desert.

  48. Andrew on November 11, 2022 at 10:15 pm

    this is not wheelchair accessible. You don’t put concrete pavers. Surface needs to be smooth. these guys are not the brightest.

  49. Jon M on November 11, 2022 at 10:15 pm

    That honeysuckle was beautiful. Why tf did they cut it out? Just TRIM it if it’s too big!!

  50. Cooper Bookout on November 11, 2022 at 10:16 pm

    desert

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