Sep 14 2015Share

Re-imagine Your Yard: Cities Offer Free Landscaping Classes

By Kathleen Ferris

Here's the first rule about changing your landscaping: start with a plan. A plan takes a little know-how and right now many of your cities are offering classes about how to revamp, restore or refresh your yard this fall. The classes are free and registration is simple. There is a list of classes on the AMWUA website.

Chandler helped to kick off the fall classes in late August with Basic Yard Makeovers. The Basic Yard Makeovers class was packed with photos, ideas, inspiration and practical tips. Here’s a sample:

  • Killing Bermuda grass: Herbicides work best when the lawn is looking its best, well watered, richly green and several days after it is mowed.
  • Artificial grass: Yes, it saves water and has its application in commercial spaces, but Salt River Project research found it can reach temperatures up to 150 degrees in the desert summer. So how do homeowners make it work for dogs and children? Yep, you guessed it, they get out the hose and water it down, defeating the reason they installed it in the first place.
  • Making it rain: The Phoenix Metropolitan Area receives an average of 8 inches of rain each year. A lawn needs an average of 60 inches of rain annually to thrive. A little lawn can serve a purpose. Wall to wall lawns don’t match the environment we live in.

And that’s just a few minutes about grass from a two-hour class that included plenty of before and after photos of turf-to-desert landscapes. There were ideas about how to beautify that strip of yard between your house and your neighbors and how to create simple, inexpensive walkways to your front door and from your recycling bin to the sidewalk.


Wading through hundreds of desert plants can be overwhelming. The class helped participants cut through the confusion and sort out the right groundcovers, shrubs, trees and vines for your yard based on sun, shadow, color, texture and height. Like most city classes, there were plant, landscape and watering guides available to take home.

Classes are offered mostly in the spring and fall. If you miss a fall class, it’s likely to be offered in the spring. Some cities offer classes from fall through spring. Here is a small sampling of more than 70 classes offered by AMWUA member cities: 

  • Landscape Watering: Learn proper watering to save time and maximize the beauty of your yard. (Phoenix)
  • Landscaping for Small Spaces: Learn about design ideas for small yards, tight spaces and patios. (Avondale)
  • Passive Harvesting: Learn how to contour your yard to capture more rain and put it to work without gutters and barrels. (Goodyear)
  • Soils & Composing Made Easy: Learn about unique desert soil, how to build better soil, and easy-to-follow steps for composting. (Peoria)
  • Vegetable Gardening In Tune with the Desert: Learn about plant selection, soil preparation, and seasonal tips. (Glendale)
  • Program Your Irrigation Controller: Learn to take control of your landscape watering with step-by-step instructions. (Scottsdale)
  • Bringing Hummingbirds and Butterflies to Your Yard: Learn how to create a residential wildlife habitat. (Gilbert)
  • Grey Water Harvesting: Learn about repurposing water from washing machines and use it to water landscaping. (Tempe)

So check on what your city offers and then check your calendar. It pays to have a plan before it’s time to grab your gardening hat and gloves.

For 46 years, Arizona Municipal Water Users Association has worked to protect our member cities’ ability to provide assured, safe and sustainable water supplies to their communities. For more water information visit

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