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Sustainable Cities Network (SCN) Partner News – City of Glendale Desert Food Forest

Earlier this summer, the City of Glendale Water Services Department sponsored three “Hotel Saguaro” puppet shows during the Glendale Library’s busy summer reading program. A unique pre-show activity called “Taste Your Yard” allowed participants to learn about desert edible and medicinal plants. The City partnered with Maricopa County Master Gardeners, Library teen volunteers, and Trees Matter to staff interactive stations where participants made mesquite flour and sampled desert edibles, such as prickly pear candy, agave syrup, and pomegranate juice. This popular session demonstrated the need for more opportunities to learn about desert food—thankfully, development of the Desert Food Forest was underway.

The City of Glendale Water Services Department was recently awarded an Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management Community Challenge Grant to develop a Desert Food Forest demonstration at the Glendale Xeriscape Demonstration Garden. The Desert Food Forest will showcase water-efficient, desert-edible trees, shrubs, perennials, and succulents that homeowners can successfully grow, harvest, and enjoy in their own landscapes. The landscape will utilize passive rainwater harvesting, curb cuts with permeable pathways, and an interpretive sign to engage the public.

In addition to the 3,000 sq. ft. demonstration, the grant will provide for youth and adult education on Sonoran Desert edible and medicinal plants. The City is partnering with the Linking Edible Arizona Forests (LEAF) Network to offer a free “Create Your Own Desert Food Forest” class on Saturday, October 21 from 10 a.m. to Noon at the Glendale Main Library (5959 W. Brown St.). A design charrette, involving local plant experts, is scheduled this September and will help ensure a sustainable design that is compatible to our unique climate. The Food Forest demonstration is scheduled to be installed later this fall.

This project was born out of residents’ increasing interest in learning how to transform their lawns into more water-efficient desert gardens. In the Phoenix metropolitan area, outdoor water usage typically makes up more than half of a resident’s total water usage. Much of this water is used to support lawns and ornamental plants that require more resources and maintenance than desert-adapted plants. With the gaining popularity of growing desert edibles, this project will provide a demonstration and resource for visitors at the Glendale Xeriscape Demonstration Garden who want to create a desert food forest that benefits people, native wildlife, and the environment.