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Keeping in mind that I live in a rental, I am tossing around ideas for a cooler, more aesthetically pleasing back yard.  I have a dug in garden started around the perimeter and am looking to fill the middle with??  My three ideas:  1. Concrete paving stone to make a place for a table, fellowship, etc.  (Functional but not cooling)  2.  Wood chips (Cooling but I've heard it encourage roaches?)  3.  Lawn  (Cooling but not so functional as I don't want chairs on a new lawn.)  I scored 16 lovely garden fence panels at a yard sale to add to the mix.  Any ideas or advice is welcome.  I'm not in a huge hurry as anything I do will cost money and I am truly dragging my feet on spending much on a yard I don't own.  Still, I live here; God placed me HERE and I want to be surrounded by His beauty.

Yes.  I am leaving this photo sideways because I refuse to waste any more time trying to turn it.

                         

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Thank you for such a well thought reply.  I do want to incorporate native plants but my main goal is people food!  I am hoping for a good balance...orange mallow, sagebrush, mormon tea; I brought orange mallow with me when I moved here from my place on the Strip but it didn't survive the transplant.  I will be bringing back more 'hopefulls' from my property the next time I go.  I love planting things from 'home'.  

I had to look up the term 'earthworks' as I had never heard it before.  'An earthwork is any structure made of earth. They were often built in layers of carefully selected materials: clay, sand, gravel and soil, which were often packed down to withstand erosion.' is the best definition I read.  I don't know that I will get that technical in the backyard!  I'm just a mom trying to grow a few veggies and improve the atmosphere of our little space.  ;-)  I am learning so much from this forum!  Thanks for the info on the wood chips.  I will be making the call as soon as I get it cleared with the property management.  Baby steps.  

Hi De Ann

Sorry - I didn't mean to be confusing.  I forget that terms like "earthworks" might not be common knowledge for folks =)

Earthworks are simple basins you dig into the earth - they don't usually need other layers like sand, gravel or soil (unless you mix some compost with native soil).  You can grow veggie gardens in earthworks and they become sunken garden beds.  I am a huge advocate of sunken beds as they are truly the most sustainable type of garden bed in our hot, dry climate.  They keep organic matter and water where the plants can get at it.  

Below are some sunken beds at the U of A and Native Seed/SEARCH.

Hmmm...I was going to post some of my own sunken beds but my computer is acting up! 

Hahahaha!  I guess I have always used 'earth works' and never knew it.  This is how I learned to plant as a child on the AZ Strip.  This is a photo of my garden back home.  I would love to see what you have going when your computer starts behaving.

And there you go!!  =)

I haven't used Chip Drop.  I usually contact Integrity Tree Service for free chips.  http://www.itreeservice.com/contact.php (check the box that says "I'm interested in free wood chips")

Hi I just received my first chip drop last week and it was everything I asked for. No Oleander or palm fronds and dropped right in my front yard as I asked. I would definitely use them again. I got a phone call from my land lord yesterday about my wood chip pile. I have a nosy neighbor who took a photo and sent it to said land lord claiming it invite scorpions. My first load of chips dod nothing of the sort happened. Nosy a**hole neighbors can be a pain. Get a life they need to. I love chip drop.

Just a thought, but an option would be to do a pad of compacted decomposed granite instead of wood chips, pavers, or a lawn.  It would give you a solid base for chairs or a table, won't hold in as much heat as pavers, and won't give the bugs a place to hide. 

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