|Heritage fig trees last July.
This morning I was scrolling down Google Photos. My heart just sunk as I noticed that our yard looked greener in summers past. For sure our "drought tolerant" heritage fig trees were doing better.
Here is that fig tree now...
|Heritage fig in greywater basin. Coming back a little since the rain. (Those are bean sprouts I planted for added nitrogen.)
I got to thinking. I wonder if it's because it's not cooling off at night like it used to. One evening it got up to 92 degrees! It wasn't always like this. Before there was air-conditioning people in Tucson used to sleep outside to cool off in the summer.
Some plants (and us humans) need that cooling down time to recover from the hot day. It is vital for our health.
|Typical profile of the Phoenix urban heat island (UHI) using the five predominant land types
One way to fight the heat island effect is to plant more trees. And the city is working on that. Mayor Rothschild championed the 10,000 Trees Campaign. That's great because trees cool down our streets and neighborhoods AND sequester carbon to fight climate change. We could sure use some of those trees to line the sidewalks so people have a shady place to walk or wait for the bus.
As we plant all those trees, we need to be mindful of how much water the trees take and where we are getting the water for them. We are living in a desert during a drought. As much as we love to grow fruit trees, they require more water. To be sustainable, we need to plant more drought tolerant heritage fruit trees or native trees - and use our wash-water and rainwater to irrigate them.
Last Sunday we had our first summer shower. Yeah! I try to use up all the water in the blue barrels before the next rain, so they are ready to be filled up again. I try to do it first thing in the morning before it gets hot and the water evaporates.
We still aren't doing everything we can do. We plan to install more gutters on our roof to direct more rainwater into bigger cisterns and use rainwater from the neighbors roof to water a vegetable garden. (It helps to have a good relationship with your neighbors!)
To stop the Urban Heat Island Effect, it's gonna take a community effort. We're all gonna have to plant more trees (and maybe drive a little less so we can dig up some parking lot pavement). Right now, there is enough rainwater to irrigate them all, if we all do rainwater harvesting. There are rainwater harvesting rebates and a low income grant and loan program - yet less than 1% of us are taking advantage of them. Why is that? What can we do about it? I would love to hear your ideas and solutions.
Meanwhile, we can start where we are. Take the first steps. Plant a tree. Start a conversation with your neighbors. Share this blog... :)