Today’s post is from my sister (Chicken Farmer) and resident of Double S Farms.
As a California transplant living in the desert of Arizona, there are a few things that really trip me out and one of them is flood irrigation. Every two weeks in the summer and once a month in the fall, winter, and spring months, we irrigate our yard with a “flood.”

Very few homes in Arizona actually have this type of irrigation. It’s usually found in older neighborhoods and neighborhoods zoned for agricultural use. My sister, who is an expert on all things garden/desert/plants blogged about flood irrigation here and explained that the water sinks deeply into the soil which makes for deep roots for both grass and trees. It also helps to flush out salts that accumulate in the soil.
Best seat in the house on a hot summer day.
 
Snow melt and rain water is accumulated throughout the year in a system of reservoirs and canals. One of these canals runs right behind our backyard. We sign up to irrigate through our local utility company. We are allowed up to 3 hours of constant flood irrigation but we usually sign up for just an hour and a half to two hours. The utility company then sends out a schedule with our irrigation time (which lately has been in the middle of the night!). When it’s our time, I drive to the end of the street to open the flood gates and turn on the valve that you can see above to get the water flowing.
Although it looks wasteful, if done properly, flood irrigation is a very efficient way to water. Because of the heat where we leave, a lot of the water from daily sprinkler use evaporates before it has a chance to soak in. A once a month deep water is much better for plants in the desert than a daily, light sprinkle. The key is to figure out just how much water you need and order the right amount. It’s also important that your yard is nice and even or a little hill or slope will send that water right into the street. Sadly, I have seen some neighbors water their driveways on occasion. 
Our first irrigation -we hadn’t figured out how much water we needed and obviously ordered too much.
My dog Sodapop goes crazy over the irrigation. As soon as she sees the water flowing, she runs up to the valve and lays right next to it. The boys love it too. They think it’s a blast to take a pair of my flip flops and have “boat” races. I love the irrigation because it brings a ton of fun critters to the backyard – ducks, snakes, toads, and all kinds of cool shore birds.
Yesterday was irrigation day and we are fortunate that it wasn’t scheduled for the middle of the night. It was scheduled for late afternoon which is the hottest time of day. The boys were stoked!

We’ve been irrigating this way for over a year now and I still think it’s kind of bizarre (although we have the happiest fruit trees ever). Almost as bizarre (but not as scary) as the scorpions out here – which I’ll never get used to. But that’s an entirely different post.
Noelle here again – UPDATE:
Guess what also came in with the water?

Yes, that is a fish.  Actually the fact that it made it’s way into the backyard isn’t really all that strange.  Fish are released into the canals to help to eat the algae that can build up along bottom and sides.  This particular fish made it’s way from the larger canals to the smaller ones and into the backyard of Double S Farms.

The fish was released back into the canal by Farmer Dad.  I wonder if it will wind up in someone else’s garden?

Please visit my sister’s blog FinleyandOliver to read more about her adventures in the desert southwest.


Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a horticulturist, certified arborist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."

20 replies
  1. Jim Groble
    Jim Groble says:

    i want to sit on the bubbler. Flood irragation made sence once you explained it. it is something way beyond my experience. Lack of water isn't a problem in NE Ohio.
    Thank you for your kind remarks on my blog. I do appreciate them. How is your son doing? jim

  2. Rebecca @ In The Garden
    Rebecca @ In The Garden says:

    Wonderful post Noelle!! So glad it wasn't in the middle of the night, I can only imagine how much fin my kids & dog would have, they all love the water. I think i've mentioned this before, but we are in a semi arrid desert and some farmers do use flood irrigation for their crops. VERY efficient use of water, much more so than water being lost to evaporation. 🙂

  3. Floridagirl
    Floridagirl says:

    I have to agree that process is super bizarre, and I would surely have a heart attack if I ever saw that outside my house! Sounds like it is a winning solution for the desert, though. Love that photo of the boy on the valve. So cute!

  4. Balisha
    Balisha says:

    I have never heard of this. I learn something new here weekly. Now I'm off to visit your sister's blog.Everyone feeling better at your house?Have a great weekend.
    Balisha

  5. Rosey
    Rosey says:

    My goodness…who would have expected a fish?
    My grandma used to flood her lawn every summer in Utah and we used to play in/on it and have a blast!

  6. Joy K.
    Joy K. says:

    I've never heard of this before. I love it when I learn something.

    Thanks for not leaving us in suspense about the fish's fate.

  7. Rosie@leavesnbloom
    Rosie@leavesnbloom says:

    I think my big boys would love that too. It must be an amazing sight to see but to have a fish arrive in the garden must have been fun to watch too.

    I must go over to Grace and leave a little comment for her too now.

    Have a great holiday weekend Noelle with all the family and I hope little Kai is getting stronger and stronger each day. 🙂 Rosie

  8. Amy
    Amy says:

    Wow, I've never heard of flood irrigation in a neighborhood. But if roots, kids, dogs, and egrets love it, it must be good stuff!

  9. tina
    tina says:

    I remember Noelle's first post on your irrigation system and thought it quite cool. Looks like TONS of fun on hot days indeed. Too funny on the fish and lucky for it Farmer Dad was around to send it back down the canal.

  10. arizonaplantlady@gmail.com
    arizonaplantlady@gmail.com says:

    Thank you all for your kind comments. My son, Kai, is doing very well and goes back to the doctor next week. Hopefully, he will be able to start physical therapy and start to put weight on his leg 🙂

    Noelle

  11. Joanne
    Joanne says:

    What an interesting post how I wish we had some water to irrigate with instead of endlessly using a hose pipe as it hasn't rained here for weeks.

  12. debsgarden
    debsgarden says:

    What a fun post! I would like that "best seat in the house" on some of our hot summer days! I'm glad the fish made it back into the canal instead of into the frying pan.

  13. Rose
    Rose says:

    This is so interesting, Chicken Farmer. I've seen the canals in Phoenix, but I had never heard of the flood irrigation until Noelle posted about it. Looks like your boys and Sodapop are thoroughly enjoying it. I'd like to sit on that rock in this heat, too:) And our Golden Sophie would gladly join Sodapop for some fun!

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