Virtual Garden Tours

The Learning Garden Tour

Written by Cricket

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Hi, I’m Cricket, the host of GardenVariety.Life. I’ve enjoyed showing you some amazing gardens on the Virtual Garden Tour, and I hope to show you many more in the coming weeks. Today, I would like to take you on a little tour of my garden here in North Phoenix. Since moving here from Seattle in 2006, I’ve made a lot of changes as I’ve learned to garden in the desert. I’ve also taken a lot of pictures along the way, so the only hard part of telling you the story of my garden was narrowing down which photos to use. Our garden is a family space where my children have been growing and learning, which is why I like to call it the Learning Garden. Not only has it been a part of our homeschool experience when the kids were younger, but it has also been a learning place for me. Here is a tour of my garden through the last 10 years, begining with what it looks like today so you can get an idea of how much it has changed through the years.

This is our garden today.


We were putting a bat house up so we decided to take some photos too. This is a view of the west part of the garden.

Facing the southwest side of backyard.

View from the Southwestern corner of the sport court.

Enjoy A quick video tour of the front yard

We moved in Ten Years ago

Our House

In 2006 the front of our new home consisted of a simple arrangement of palms elephant food, and loads of lantana.

2006 Dec 25 - NIKON D70s - DSC_7712

Our backyard was basically Texas sage, bougainvillea, and more lantana. Oh, and lots and lots of rocks.

At first I tried just putting stuff in the ground and expecting it to grow like it did in Seattle. I quickly learned that I knew nothing. Through lots of research and the wonderful forum on the Phoenix Permaculture Guild website (Now Valley Permaculture Alliance), I started to realize I needed to do things differently. I started with making small gardens with recycled concrete in out of the way areas, trying to work in between the existing plants.

Every season my imagination grew bigger and so did my garden. We planted Willow Acacia trees at the top of the slope at the north perimeter of the garden so that we could have more privacy from the 2 story house next behind us. I also wanted some more vegetable garden space so we built three 3 X 8 raised beds in front of the trees.

Those lasted for about a year until one morning I discovered my neighbors down the street had removed their back patio. As the landscapers were loading the broken concrete into the dump truck I quickly called my husband to see if we could use it to build raised beds. He said yes (though I don’t think he knew what he was getting into at the time.) I asked the workers to dump it all in my driveway. They looked at me funny, but that is exactly what they did. The next weekend, for our 19th anniversary, we rented a Bobcat and started digging.

2011 Jun 18 - NIKON D300 - T11_8871

If this looks like a great big puzzle to you, you’re right. That’s what it feels like putting it together.

2011 Jun 29 - DMC-TS1 - P1070398

Slowly, we dry-stacked a 2 foot high wall at the base of the slope of the perimeter of the north and west walls. I had to wait 6 months to find more concrete to finish the west wall.

2012 Feb 10 - DMC-TS1 - P1010156

We back filled the wall with topsoil and compost and immediately planted.

Everything was growing and thriving.

Here you can see the wall finished in the background and the newly planted fruit trees under planted with herbs, flowers, and vegetables where there used to be Texas sage and rock. The new patio and arbor are on the right.

2012 Apr 01 - DMC-TS1 - P1010476

The kids love harvesting! It’s always fun to take an empty basket out to the garden and come back with it full.

The microburst

2014 Aug 02 - iPhone 5 - IMG_1900

Then in July 2014 a Microburst took out the Willow Acacias and wreaked havoc on the rest of the garden. I was in Wyoming when this happened. Taylor said it sounded like a train came through. Needless to say I was sick when I saw the pictures he sent.

2014 Jul 27 - iPhone 5s - IMG_1198

The rest of the yard had only minor damage, but it still wasn’t pretty.

Losing the trees made us feel so exposed. I quickly planted bamboo a pomegranate, and some peach trees to someday fill in. Lots of veggies too, of course. The benefit was that we had more light and things took off.

In 2015 we added four raised wicking beds on the sport court along with a fence and trellis.

We added bees for pollination and honey. Read more about bee keeping.

Chicken coup to the left was made out of our old playset that used to have swings and a slide. Check out my post on how we made it.

Our Garden

Both the front and back yards produce a lot of fruit and vegetables and a beautiful environment to just be in.

Some specifics about our garden.



  • Everything is on drip irrigation. I followed the examples of Vynnie McDaniels and the Master Gardener Demonstration garden to lay my irrigation out. It basically is a 1/2 in black poly tube with emitter tubing every 6-9 inches that runs perpendicular to the 1/2 in tube the length of the garden. Kind of like a giant comb. It is on a timer that varies throughout the year.
  • The Wicking beds are watered from the bottom up so that the plant roots “wick” water up. They use about 52% less water. I’m still experimenting with the right soil mix. My beds are made from recycled scaffolding planks.
  • We also have 3 rain barrels, which I use to hand water pots.
  • All of the garden is heavily mulched with free mulch from tree companies. My last batch was very thorny, so I recommend checking the truck’s contents before accepting the dump. Tidy Tree is a very good choice. As is Integrity Tree Service. You can call and get on their list if you are in their area.

Fruit Trees

  • 6 pomegranate (Wonderful)
  • 4 peach (3 Desert Gold, 1 Bonanza Dwarf)
  • 1 Apple (Dorsett Golden)
  • 2 Nectarine (not a good producer for me, don’t know variety)
  • 2 Apricot (Katy)
  • 2 Plums (Santa Rosa, ?)
  • 5 Fig (don’t know variety)
  • 1 Lemon
  • 1 Orange (Naval)
  • 1 Mandarin
  • 1 Loquat
  • 1 Guava (white)
  • 1 Pineapple Guava


  • 5 Grapes (Red Flame)
  • 3 Passionfruit (Fredricks Purple)

Here is my list of plants that perform the best for me year after year.

  • Rosemary
  • Marjoram
  • Peppermint
  • Pineapple mint
  • Artemsia Powis Castle
  • Mexican Oregano
  • Lemon Thyme
  • Lavender (all kinds)
  • Chiltepin
  • Chile Pequin
  • Sweet Potato (all kinds)
  • Lemongrass
  • Kale (fall/spring)
  • Swiss Chard (fall/spring)
  • Lettuce (fall/spring)
  • Cilantro (fall/spring)
  • Pumpkins
  • Beets (fall/spring)
  • I’ito Onions
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Yellow pear tomatoes
  • Jerusalem Artichokes (sun chokes)
  • Hibiscus Sabdariffa

Near Future plans

  • I hope to install an outdoor washing machine to route the gray water to my garden. I already dry my clothes on the line outside, so it makes sense and is much cheaper than running a gray water system from my existing washing machine.
  • We also want to build a Cobb oven for baking bread.


Some of my favorite gardening books.

[eafl id=3498 name=”Earth Friendly Desert Gardening Growing Resources” text=”Earth Friendly Desert Gardening Growing Resources”] – by Jo Miller

Desert Gardening Fruits and Vegetables – by George Brookbank

Charles Dowding’s Vegetable Course – by Charles Dowding (UK)

Gaia’s Garden – by Toby Hemenway

Urban Homesteading – by Rachel Kapla

About the author


Welcome to my blog! I’m Cricket (yes, my parents named me that!) and I’m a natural homesteader. Growing up in rural Idaho with a garden, a horse, and lots of canned food, I like to bring those sensibilities to my suburban home in Phoenix, Arizona. Add a little dose of cottage garden flavor and permaculture tendencies, and you’ll see why GardenVariety.Life is a reflection of everything I do.

I truly enjoy sharing the skills that promote a meaningful and practical connection to our gardens and environment. Because so many residents of the metro phoenix area are transplants, I find that the area’s unique desert climate is often misunderstood and underestimated in terms of what is possible. That’s where the fun begins. Arizona is a burgeoning permaculture haven with homesteading written all over it, and there is nothing I enjoy more than encouraging others to jump in and give it a try.