Each year, thousands of Arizona residents email or call Rosie Romero’s radio show with questions about everything from preventing fires in their chimneys to getting rid of tree roots invading their sewer system. His goal is to provide answers that suit the specific lifestyle wherever someone lives in Arizona.
QUESTION: I want to put pavers or flagstone paving in an enclosed courtyard at my house. I’m worried that if the area doesn’t drain properly or isn’t graded first, I will have a big lake every time it rains. How can I be sure of providing good drainage?
ANSWER: Usually, regular concrete pavers do not drain well enough for a patio. But you can buy permeable pavers that will be installed in a slightly different way so that the water seeps through the joints between the pavers and then re-enters the water table. Installing those types of pavers usually means that you probably do not need to have any special kind of drain installed in the courtyard either. And by providing a positive gentle slope, the water can run off to a landscape area where it can disperse.
Q: I have a group of assorted fruit and citrus trees I want to plant in my yard, including dwarf oranges, a grapefruit tree and a Rio apple. Some trees will go in the front yard and some in the back. But I’m wondering whether I need to worry about the roots of the trees interfering with water and sewer pipes that are underground.
A: Dwarf species of citrus can be planted in tighter spaces, and they don’t require a large root system to survive. You don’t need to worry about spreading roots of fruit trees in general as they tend not to be very invasive. But probably you don’t want to plant a tree right on top of a sewer line or water line in your yard.
Q: I’m sick of the continual mess that my 20-year-old sumac tree creates, so, I’m going to remove it. What kind of tree can I plant to replace it?
A: I’d suggest a Chinese pistache, an elm or possibly even an oak. But really there is no such thing as a “clean” tree if you want lots of shade like the sumac provided in your yard. There’s really no perfect solution to your problem as all trees produce some litter.
Q: I’m getting ready to have some remodeling done at my house. In the bids I’ve received, the materials all seem to cost about the same amount, but the labor and management costs seem to vary considerably. Is there a cost-ratio formula we should be looking for?
A: The rule of thumb generally is that a third of the cost of a job should go for materials, a third to pay for labor, while the rest goes for costs of supervision and profit for the remodeler. Don’t necessarily reject a bid where the supervision cost seems to be running higher. You have to remember that when something goes wrong — like delays or problems with the inspection process, for example — who is it that you will put the most confidence in? Which contractor do you want to see walking up to your house when things like that happen?
Q: Is there anything I can spray on my oleanders to prevent them from blooming?
There are some liquids that can be applied to plants to regulate growth; that’s what they do with olive trees to prevent them from bearing fruit. However, it can be stressful to a plant to do something like that and any chemical should be applied by an arborist who has worked with the product before. These chemicals are generally not sold to the public.