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Backyard gets too hot to handle

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Jul 05, 2013, 08:57 PM
Backyard gets too hot to handle
I've lived in my home since 1984 and over the years have tried many things to make a yard, but have always come up lacking. Our ground is all backfill from the building of the freeway and then the addition of the sewer project, so my yard is full of chunks of asphalt and concrete which I have been steadily taking out over the last 20 years. Attempts to plant lawns have failed. Trees have failed, the sun gets so hot against the back of my house that if it is 90 degrees in the front, it will be 115 degrees in the back as the sun reaches it's peak and begins to go down. The summers seem to be getting hotter these days and there is nowhere for my grandkids to play. They have a swing set in the backyard, but the heat is unbearable, so they can't use it. I used to have giant oaks that shaded my property but they died and the arborist said it was from dirt being piled up around the trunks. I don't know what to do with the place now. I need help! Any suggestions??? I am in Central California where our temperatures tend to be pretty mild, but due to the topography of my yard, flat, and the way the sun hits it in the afternoon reflecting off the stucco in the back of my house it has created an unbearable heat.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: atasmom,
Jul 05, 2013, 10:50 PM
If you're interested in being on the show, try here, although it doesn't appear as if Desperate Landscapes is recruiting at this time:

If you're interested in suggestions, some additional information would be helpful. In what part of the country or state do you live? If everything that's planted is being killed, you must be in a really, really hot climate zone.

I have experienced the problem of fill being dumped in a yard, and unfortunately, if it's close to the top of the soil you either have to remove it or incorporate it into your landscape. A rock garden around the protruding fill might be the easiest thing to do.

However, if everything is dying you'll have to amend the soil before planting anything else.

Given the apparent extensive presence of fill, what you might try is amending small areas and planting those, then moving on to other areas.

Soil amendments are discussed in these threads:

Some of the issues are different, but if you read through them you'll get ideas on how to amend your soil.

Why was dirt piled up around the oaks? This will in fact kill a tree. I've seen plenty of trees planted by commercial landscapers with mulch mounded up around the base of the tree, and I suspect that those trees are not going to be long term survivors. Tree bark needs to breathe, which it can't if it's buried in mulch.

To create some shade, you might consider pergolas or trellises covered with flowering vines planted in containers (in which you can control the conditions of the soil) and situated around the yard to provide shade havens.

An alternative would be to give up on anything that grows and just put in bricks or pavers, but I think that would be a last resort.

If you have any photos to share, that would also help others offer suggestions.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: GardenSprite,
Jul 06, 2013, 08:26 PM
Rereading your edited message, it seems that the reflection from the stucco is causing the back yard to heat up to the point that it's not even usable.

So I think that issue needs to be addressed first, but I honestly know very little about stucco. I'm wondering if there's a paint or something that could be used to reflect the sun off the stucco.

If not, I'm thinking again that some kind of structure like a trellis or pergola could direct the sun away from the house. I'm also wondering if one of the those roll-out canopies could be attached to the back of the house to deflect the sun.

They look something like this:

Are other homes in your area stuccoed as well, and do they have similar reflective problems?

I've seen hot weather gardens featured on the Victory Garden, and one had a variety of agaves, aloes and cacti. They could probably survive in the heat of your back yard, but your grandchildren would have to be careful of them since some of them have thorns.

I see that your edit also renders moot the issue of soil amendment now, although it's probably pretty dry given the excessive heat. Still, I'd focus on the stucco issue first.

These sites have some information on desert landscaping which might be of help:

(I think the semicircular frames might also be a possibility for creating some shade in your back yard, if they're covered with hot weather vining plants. At least there would be shade underneath. You could put a few benches out, although I don't think there would be room for a children's play area.

Photo no. 4 is a possibility as well to create a shade area.

Xeriscaping (gardening with plants that require little water):

You might want to Google "xeriscape lawns" to see if you can find a grass that would grow in the apparently inhospitable back yard climate. I found several hits that might offer some helpful information.

Do you get enough rain that you could collect rain water in a rain barrel and channel it to the dry back yard? It might help at least a little bit to offset the searing heat.

If I think of anything else I'll add it through an edit.
Jul 08, 2013, 11:05 AM
how about installing some misters? they are very fine sprayheads fed with water that form a fine mist of water (thus the name) that turn your area into a swamp cooler. misters plus any little bit of shade will help a lot, provided you don't have high humidity. any plumbing department can help you with this, or a pro should know how to approach it.

sig: if this is a new economy, how come they still want my old-fashioned money?