Yard and Garden

Fall and Winter Desert Gardening

Now is a great time to plant a Fall and Winter garden for the freshest organic food imaginable for your weekly menu. Vicky Derksen, our marketing director, is a trainee in the Maricopa County Master Gardener program. We’ve asked her to give us some Fall gardening tips.

What is your gardening background?

I grew up in northern Idaho where everyone had a garden and fruit trees. The house I grew up in was built for an orchardist in the early 20th century, so we still had apple and pear trees from that era. My mom always had a large vegetable garden and spent late summer days canning dozens of jars to fruit, vegetables, and jams to eat throughout the winter. It was unheard of to buy zucchini, tomatoes, apples, pears, apricots, or walnuts at the store. 

But when I became a teenager, I decided gardening was not for me. I negotiated with my mom to do the household laundry and make several dinners a week during the summer months if she would let me off gardening chores. I had no intention of stepping into a garden again.

What changed your mind?

It was a gradual change. I moved to Phoenix in my early 20s and had to pay money for zucchini for the first time in my life. And the zucchini at the store was so tiny compared to what we harvested in our gardens. I asked the produce manager if they had any that were bigger. I got a funny look. 

We bought our first house when my oldest was five. I decided I wanted my kids to understand the value of food, to appreciate eating organically, and to dig in the dirt. So we built our first raised garden beds. I didn’t know anything about gardening in the desert and thought that we wouldn’t be able to grow very much. But as I researched desert gardening, I was surprised to find out that I could garden here year-round and grow just about any vegetable I wanted! I’ve been gardening in Fountain Hills for 15 years now.

How did you get involved in the Master Gardener Program?

When COVID hit and we got our Stay at Home orders at the end of March, I decided I wanted to use the newly freed time on my calendar for learning something that would better myself. Although I had been successful with vegetable gardening, I felt like there was so much I still needed to know. I wanted to learn more about my citrus trees, my lawn care, landscaping with native plants, and organic pest management for my garden. So I signed up for the 4-month program and am set to complete it at the end of October.

How does someone get started with a raised garden bed?

Mel Bartholomew’s book, The All New Square Foot Gardening, was foundational for helping me understand how to set up a garden and how to grow the most plants in the least amount of space while watering conservatively. When it comes to figuring out what to plant and when, Mary Irish’s book Gardening in the Deserts of Arizona is like having a magic hat. It walks you through month-by-month for a successful harvest throughout the seasons.

To learn more about vegetable gardening, fertilizing, watering, pest management, and so much more, the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension provides extremely valuable publications. Visit and click on “Publications” to search for a publication that answers your questions. 

What are some easy things people can grow this Fall?

Fall is a great time to grow root crops, and they are some of the easiest things to grow. This includes carrots, radishes, beets, and turnips. Peas do great in the cooler winter and don’t mind the winter cold. Lettuces, spinach, kale, and chard all thrive in the cool weather and continue to grow more leaves as you harvest them. It’s also a great time to grow flowers and herbs. 

My greatest success with flowers has been impatients. I filled two large terra cotta pots with them last October. I neglected them all winter with only a few waterings. I watered them every morning through this long, hot summer. It’s been a year and at no point did they ever stop flowering. I recommend them if you’re not great with flowers or get bummed out when they don’t survive temperature changes.

What are some reasons people should consider gardening in Fountain Hills?

Gardening can be a form of meditation. It relaxes you, keeps you in the moment, and reduces stress. It is deeply satisfying to sit at the dinner table and count up all the ingredients on your plate that grew in the soil just a few yards from where you eat. 

For more information about gardening, visit or

Local Events

“4 on The Floor” at Fountain Hills Theater

Fountain Hills Theater announces the opening of the new musical comedy, 4 on the Floor. This production will be presented in their brand-new outdoor theater, just steps outside their indoor theater spaces. All performances take place on the Showmobile Stage provided courtesy of Kern Entertainment. The new outdoor theater setup provides reserved chair seating in socially distanced groups under twinkling outdoor lights. A limited number of parking spots with a view of the stage will also be made available, for those uncomfortable sitting outside. Local mandates and CDC guidelines will be in effect, for the safety of all patrons.

Fountain Hills Theater 4 on the Floor

Four auto mechanics in 1969 want to become a rock and roll band, but all they know is cars, chrome, and chicks! Well…they say sing what you know! While the boys spend their days repairing and singing about cars and dreaming about their calendar girls, this high energy tribute musical
features some of the best rock and roll car songs of all time including 409, Hey, Little Cobra, Hot Rod Lincoln, Little Old Lady from Pasadena, and many, many more.

Fountain Hills Theater 4 on the Floor

Author and Director Peter J. Hill was listening to an NPR report about popular American music. As expected, the number one subject of American music is love. Number two was cars!!! This is unique in the world. Surely, Hill thought, there must be a musical revue that featured the American Hot Rod songbook, but to his surprise, there was not. Setting the story in 1969, he created a tribute show that hits on all cylinders of the big hot rod songs of the ’50s and ’60s but also includes little known car songs like Under the Wrench, Grandpa’s Advice, One Piece at a Time, and The Duct Tape Madrigal.

4 on the Floor is directed by Peter J. Hill, choreographed by Noel Irick, and musically directed by Jennifer Adams. 4 on the Floor stars Ben Alker, Raelyn Burkhart, Megan Farinella, Brian Hoffman, Henry Male, Jeremiah Power, Fallon Smith, Kori Stearns, and William Wadsworth.

4 on the Floor will play November 13 -22, 2020. Performances are Fridays & Saturdays at 7:30PM and Sundays at 2:00PM. Individual tickets are $35.00 for adults and $18.00 for youth 17 and under. Group, Veteran & Active Duty discounts available. All performances are at Fountain Hills
Theater on its Outdoor Stage at 11445 N. Saguaro Blvd. (The Corner of Saguaro and Rand). Tickets are available through the Theater Box Office at (480) 837-9661 x.3 or by visiting Box Office Hours are 12:00PM-2:00 PM Tuesday through Saturday.

Seating will be available on ‘The Lawn’ in front of the stage. The theater will practice socially distanced seating. Masks will be required for all attendees and staff. Patrons who request a stage viewable parking spot may remain in their cars or sit outside their cars and ‘tailgate’ All patrons are
encouraged to purchase tickets in advance for a “contact-free” experience while you’re at the show. Seating is limited and patrons will be given their seat assignments at the event.

Outdoor recreation

Jump on Your Bike and Ride!

Cooler temperatures are enticing us to get outside and enjoy some recreational activity. Mountain biking is one of the top activities of choice at nearby McDowell Mountain Regional Park. With over 40 miles of trails ranging from easy to strenuous, there is something to suit all riding abilities. There is even a Technical Loop for expert riders to sharpen their skills.

Fountain Hills resident Vicky Derksen recently rented an electric-assist mountain bike from McDowell Mountain Cycles so she could join her husband on the trails.

“Mark has wanted me to mountain bike with him for years, but it’s not really my thing. When I rented the eBike, I fell in love with the experience. I set it at a medium assist level and had no problem keeping up with him. I was able to ride 14 miles and see the farthest reaches of the park without exhaustion. I look forward to another eBike experience.”

For those who prefer paved pathways, the Valley of the Sun is filled with options, such as the nearby Indian Bend Wash Greenbelt in Scottsdale and the Rio Salado Pathway in Mesa.

The Indian Bend Wash Greenbelt (and its extensions both north and south) is an oasis of parks, lakes, paths, and golf courses that runs through the heart of Scottsdale. It is rated among the top urban “green spaces” in Arizona. Riders can park near Jade Palace across from the hospital on Shea and ride to Tempe Town Lake.

The Rio Salado Pathway connects to several other bike paths that can take riders as far as Chandler Heights, Phoenix, and Scottsdale. The Pathway follows the Riverview Park near the Loop 101 and Loop 202 interchange. Riders can get started from the Sloan Park parking lot and head west until the trail ends near the airport or veer onto other connecting paths for a longer ride.




Desert Plants and Wildlife

Get to Know Your Local Cacti

The Sonoran Desert is well-known for its large variety of cacti. While they grow rampant in the open desert, they are also common in yards that use native landscapes. Here are a few of our common cacti.


Local Cacti
2222584 – saguaro in superstition wilderness.

A saguaro can live beyond 150 years, but it takes 75-100 years to grow their first arm if one grows at all. When it is fully hydrated, it can weigh over 4,000 pounds, getting its support from inner woody ribs. The white, waxy flowers open after sunset and close in midafternoon. These blossoms are Arizona’s state wildflower.


Local Cacti

Prickly pear cactus is one of the most popular desert cacti because of its delicious, magenta fruit used in candies, jellies, syrups, and cocktails. The green, pancake-like pads, called nopales, are also edible and highly nutritious.


Local Cacti

There are many varieties of cholla cactus, but most have a reputation for sticking to skin, fur, and clothing with their barbed spines that can spring when disturbed. They appear as ground creepers, shrubs, or trees standing anywhere from 1-15 feet in height. Watch out when hiking or taking your dog for a walk.


Local Cacti

This succulent earned its name because of its short, spiny stems that resemble hedgehogs. The flowers range from pink to lavender, opening in the morning and closing at night. Edible fruit with a strawberry taste appears after flowering.


These cacti grow about 3-4 feet in height with pronounced ribs and long spines, living to over 100 years. Yellow or orange flowers appear on top after many years of maturing. Pineapple-shaped fruit may form after flowering, but it is dry and bitter to taste.


Local Cacti

With a height up to 25 feet, the organ pipe-shaped branches grow upward instead of branching out. Older plants grow three-inch-long funnel-shaped flowers that open at night and close by morning with pollination accomplished by bats. Tennis ball-sized fruit grows that tastes like watermelon.

To learn more about native plants of the Sonoran Desert, visit the Desert Botanical Garden.

Desert Plants and Wildlife

Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center

It all started with a single coyote. When Linda Searles found an orphaned coyote pup, there were no local veterinarians who would treat orphaned or injured wild animals. She dreamed of a wildlife rehabilitation center, and that dream turned into reality with the purchase of 10 acres near Rio Verde in 1994.

Today, Southwest Wildlife is one of the leading wildlife sanctuary and rehab centers in the southwestern United States. They take in injured, displaced, and orphaned animals who have lost their homes. Rehabilitated animals return to the wild, but those that cannot be released are provided life-long sanctuary.

Southwest Wildlife

Participation in the recovery of the endangered Mexican gray wolf has also been an important project for the non-profit. They also offer sanctuary to wild horses and burros who have been neglected, abused, or are slaughter-bound. Often new homes are found for them, but some peacefully live out their remaining days at Southwest Wildlife.

Other animals have also made their home here over the years: bears, coati, coyotes, deer, fox, leopard, javelina, mountain lion, owl, desert tortoise, and even skunk! Many of them can be seen on tours of the facility.

Education and humane scientific research opportunities are an important part of the organization’s mission. They have a passion for educating and inspiring people to learn about and respect wildlife and conserving their habitat.

As with most non-profits, Southwest Wildlife is funded entirely through private donations, fundraising, and grants. They have volunteer teams who respond to wildlife emergencies, provide an on-site medical care center, and offer full-time wildlife consultation services.

Southwest Wildlife is open to the public by appointment only. Tours include A Walk with Wildlife, Twilight Tours, Full Moon Tours, school field trips, and virtual events.

For information about the organization and available tours, visit

Around Arizona

10 Places to Find Fall Leaves

Did you know that Fall has an actual scent? For most places around the country, it comes from the falling leaves, something we do not really experience in the Sonoran Desert. Many enjoy a day trip to the higher elevations to hike among the golden beauty of the season. Here are ten great places around Arizona to see them.


Drive to Cape Royal and stop at Point Imperial along the way for beautiful views of the Grand Canyon and golden aspens.


Located in the San Francisco Peaks north of Flagstaff, Locket Meadow is at the edge of a large stand of aspen and the beginning of the Inner Basin Trail. This is a heavy use trail.


The road to Arizona Snowbowl just outside of Flagstaff offers three great options for enjoying the golden aspens: Aspen Corner, the Aspen Loop Trail, and Kachina Trail.


Located near Flagstaff, this trail is loaded with quaking aspens in the fall. It is a favorite trail year-round.


Located north of Sedona, this is arguably one of the most beautiful areas in our state. There are multiple areas and trails to choose from to enjoy Fall leaves.


Horton Creek is at the base of the Mogollon Rim near Kohl’s Ranch. The trail follows the creek and is surrounded by pines and lots of Fall colors.


The White Mountains are a great place to visit for some solitude and Fall leaves. Thompson Trail #629 is a great way to get up close to the leaves and get away from crowds.


Learn about native plants while enjoying the colors of Fall. Check the website for hours of operation.


Located southeast of Tucson, Madera Canyon is a great place for birdwatching and Fall leaves. Includes a wheelchair-accessible trail.


Located 50 miles northeast of Tucson, Aravapai Canyon offers beautiful isolation along a river stream. Only BLM trailheads are currently open.

Yard and Garden

10 Steps for a Successful Backyard Garden

When you live in the Sonoran Desert, you can have a backyard garden year-round. This is a great time of year to plant a fantastic Fall/Winter garden. Vegetable gardening is fun and can provide delicious, organic food straight from your own backyard. Watching the seeds that you plant spring to life, flower, and fruit often gives a great sense of enjoyment and accomplishment. It also brings awareness to the natural world that flourishes outside your back door.

Whether you plant in a few pots or in a garden bed, these 10 steps will help you grow a successful vegetable garden.


The location of your garden is key to your success. Choose an area with plenty of morning sunshine and some afternoon shade or be prepared to add shade cloth to block hot afternoon sun during the hotter seasons. You will need at least 6-8 hours of full sun exposure.


Draw a diagram of your garden before getting started. Decide what vegetables you like to eat and plan where they will go in your beds. For the most efficient use of your space and water, check out Mel Bartholomew’s famous book, The New Square Foot Garden.


We live in a unique climate, so selecting the best varieties of seeds is important for success. Select seeds for Hardiness Zone 9, short-season varieties, and bush or dwarf varieties for small garden spaces.  


Find a reputable seed source. If purchasing through a seed catalog or online store, be sure to follow the tips in Step 3. Vegetable transplants can be purchased from a local nursery or greenhouse. Make sure plants look healthy, medium-sized, with vigorous roots that are not tangled in a ball. Avoid plants that are wilted, yellowed, spindly, or show signs of pests.


Your soil will determine the life or death of your plants. Our desert soil has very little organic matter in it and often is filled with clay. Garden soil should drain well and not have any standing water. Amend (brand name) garden soil, steer manure, worm castings, and compost are valuable for building healthy soil. Fertilizer can help improve your soil season after season, too.


Most vegetables can be grown by sowing seed directly in the ground. Be sure to follow the instructions on the seed package for when to plant, how far apart to plant, and how deep to sow the seed. Some do better if you start with a pre-grown plant that can be transplanted, such as tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. Transplants should be hardened off by gradually adjusting them to the full sun, cool nights, and wind over the course of several days.

CLICK HERE for a planting calendar for Maricopa County.


Water your garden enough to keep the soil moist but not wet in the plant’s root zone. Apply regularly, as fluctuations in timing and quantity can have a negative impact on the plant’s growth. Never let the soil get dry.


Weeds compete for water, nutrients, and light. Keep your eye out for weeds and carefully remove them from your garden bed. Mulching will help control weeds, conserve moisture, and regulate the soil temperature. Use leaves, straw, sawdust, wood chips, cardboard, or newspaper. Chemical herbicides are not recommended in home gardens.


Learn about insects and diseases that might attack your vegetables. Start by selecting disease-resistant varieties when possible. Use “crop rotation” by not planting the same plant family in the same spot year after year. Water deeply, make sure plants are not crowded so they can get plenty of air and sunlight, and watch for signs of pests.


The job is not done until you harvest your food and eat it or share it with others. Most vegetables are at peak quality for a short time. If you harvest too soon, they will lack flavor. If you harvest too late, they will be tough and lack the desired taste and texture.

For a more detailed description of each step, CLICK HERE.

Real Estate

8195 E. Del Caverna at McCormick Ranch

At 8195 E Del Caverna at McCormick Ranch, you can enjoy the McCormick Ranch lifestyle at Heritage Village Three.

8195 E. Del Caverna in McCormick Ranch

This community offers two pools, tennis courts, and pickleball. Just minutes away from bike riding along the famous Greenbelt, coffee overlooking the lake, tennis courts in your backyard, and world-class entertainment at some of Scottsdale’s top attractions, including Talking Stick Resort, Top Golf, Old Town Scottsdale, Fashion Square, and so much more.

1895 E. Del Caverna at McCormick Ranch
1895 E. Del Caverna at McCormick Ranch

The home has been gorgeously updated with a Southwest casual style. It is the perfect open concept living with wood-style plank flooring, a fireplace with a stacked stone surround, and easy access to outdoor spaces.

8195 E. Del Caverna in McCormick Ranch
8195 E. Del Caverna in McCormick Ranch
8195 E. Del Caverna in McCormick Ranch

The kitchen has stainless steel appliances, a granite peninsula, and plenty of cabinetry. This space opens to the great room, dining room, and outdoor patio space, making entertainment a dream. It’s a great gathering space for the whole family.

8195 E. Del Caverna in McCormick Ranch
8195 E. Del Caverna in McCormick Ranch
8195 E. Del Caverna in McCormick Ranch

The split floorplan gives the master bedroom extra privacy. It has a sleek bath that is small but efficient and low maintenance. It features an extra-large tile and glass walk-in shower, double vanity, and a nice sized closet.

8195 E. Del Caverna in McCormick Ranch
8195 E. Del Caverna in McCormick Ranch
8195 E. Del Caverna in McCormick Ranch

Two additional bedrooms on the other side of the home offer versatile space for guest rooms or a home office. Each room is comfortably sized.

The back patio is elegantly appointed with access to a greenbelt. The community pool feels like your own private pool because of its proximity to the house. Easy access to a local walking path through Scottsdale McCormick Ranch will keep you active without having to jump in the car.

8195 E. Del Caverna at McCormick Ranch in Scottsdale

3 BD | 2 BA | 1,930 SQ FT | 2 CG


We invite you to take a virtual tour of 8195 E. Del Carvana, or give us a call at 480-837-1331 to schedule a tour in-person.

CLICK HERE to view more great homes.

Yard and Garden

Save the Saguaros

You may not see anyone standing on a street corner holding a sign that says, “Save the Saguaros”, but many are concerned about the loss of these desert giants.

You probably don’t need to be told again that the summer of 2020 was the hottest summer on record with negligible rain in Fountain Hills. Sadly, many saguaro cacti have met their demise as a result.

The saguaro is one of the most iconic species of the Sonoran Desert. Over millions of years, they have adapted to the harsh conditions of this climate. This was accomplished with a succulent stem that stores a huge amount of water, accordion-like ribs that expand and shrink with fluctuating water levels, leaves that are modified into spines, a thick cuticle for reduction of evaporation, and a metabolism that can withstand long periods of dry weather.

The local monsoon season typically runs from July through mid-September. These life-giving rainstorms eluded us this summer. Monsoons are essential for the saguaro to recover from water loss during the hot summer months. These giants suffer dehydration without these soaking rains.

As a saguaro becomes dehydrated, the stems get thinner and the ribs shrink and become narrow and deep. As a result, the plant may collapse under its own weight.

Saguaros have a shallow root system. It has a taproot that runs 2-3 feet deep and lateral roots to anchor it that only go 1-2 feet deep. When a saguaro is transplanted (as most in our landscapes are), most of the lateral roots are removed, leaving only the short taproot. Often during transplanting, the cactus is planted 1-2 feet deeper than the original depth and the soil is aggressively tamped down to give the plant stability. This is the main reason many fail to establish. The roots are planted too deep for adequate water to reach them. Root rot usually follows.

In summers like this, a saguaro could use an extra drink of water. Make a well around the base of the cactus and run a trickle of water from a garden hose for 4-6 hours. The goal is to get the soil moist to a depth of 2-3 feet where most of the roots are found. This is only necessary once a month during the hottest parts of the summer.

A little extra TLC during these excessively hot months can go a long way toward saving your amazing saguaro.

To learn more about saguaro cactus care, check out THIS PUBLICATION from the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension.

Real Estate

16400 E. Log Lane

This Santa Barbara-style estate at 16400 E. Log Lane sits on 22 acres on an elevated ridge in Fountain Hills.

The 300-degree elevated views will treat you to every mountain view offered in Fountain Hills, including the Mazatzal Mountains, Four Peaks, the Superstitions, Red Rock, and the McDowell Mountains.

The world-famous fountain provides a dramatic focal point in the center of the panorama.

Designed by Hassan Jalaly, who designed many of the area’s most stunning custom homes, this home has an artistic mosaic of ceiling designs that is timeless. Jalaly is a master at drawing the focal attention of the room upward toward lofty clerestory windows through open trusses. From twilight to sundown, you are treated to the changing moods of indirect sunlight.

16400 E. Log Lane

The massive Porte-cochere with paved driveway, double 8-foot doors with art glass transom, and a fountain provide a beautiful entry experience. A grand foyer with 20-foot ceilings, 14-foot windows, plantation shutters, and numerous ceiling details with delight and amaze.

16400 E. Log Lane

The sweeping open staircase combined with 20-foot tray ceilings, plus massive window and transom combinations perfectly frame the surrounding mountain and desert vistas.

16400 E. Log Lane

The impressive grand living room also serves a formal dining room and shares a 2-sided fireplace with the media room. The gas fireplace is floor-to-ceiling granite ledgestone, quarried in Montana.

16400 E. Log Lane
16400 E. Log Lane

Nearly all rooms offer a stunning, 25-mile view towards the mountain ranges with twinkling city lights at night. There is sturdy, Red Oak hardwood flooring throughout the living areas and the gallery. The octagonal den with an open beamed wood ceiling is perfect as an office, game room, or music room. The large hobby room has plenty of cabinets and counter space to let you explore your creative side.

16400 E. Log Lane
16400 E. Log Lane

Upstairs, a spacious family room with a full bar and an adjacent fully-suited bedroom offers the ultimate hospitality.

16400 E. Log Lane

The large kitchen is the heart of the home, with a 3-sided workspace around a massive center island, work sink, and cooktop. there are double ovens and a kitchen sink with a million-dollar view. A cozy family nook allows everyone to enjoy the sunny mornings and more of those views. Kitchen amenities include:

  • Thermador 4-burner cooktop
  • Thermador double wall ovens
  • Two stainless full-size sinks with Reverse Osmosis at island sink
  • Paneled Subzero refrigerator
  • Walk-in pantry with floor-to-ceiling shelves
  • Hardwood cabinetry with solid surface
  • Eat-in nook offers large picture windows to take in the sunny morning views
16400 E. Log Lane

The master suite is a true retreat featuring a 2-sided fireplace and a sunny reading area with private access to the patio. The closet offers generous rod, shelf, and drawer space. The master bath is elegantly appointed with an elevated jetted tub, a large walk-in shower, double vanities with seating, plus cabinetry and storage.

The private bedroom wing offers two bedrooms and a full bath. Upstairs, the suited guest bedroom offers space for guests or teenagers.

This home offers the best in outdoor entertaining. A tiled veranda the length of the home presents dramatic mountain and fountain views. Overlooking the pool and spa are various locations for dining, seating, and lounging, with private entrances to all lower level rooms.

16400 E. Log Lane

The 38’x20′ pool and spa are both heated with gas and electric heat pump, allowing for efficient use year-round. Elegant lantern and recessed lighting surround the patios and the pool.

The oversized 3-car garage features additional storage cabinets, a storage room, and a workbench. the vented rubber flooring grid is a huge plus!


4 BD | 4.5 BA | 6,215 SQ FT | 3CG


38’x20′ POOL & SPA


Enjoy a VIRTUAL TOUR of 16400 E. Log Lane, or schedule an appointment to see it in person by calling us at 480-837-1331.

CLICK HERE to view more great homes in Fountain Hills.