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. Here are questions about home maintenance and improvement from the Southern Arizona area.
Q: We have a water fountain in our backyard that is leaking like a sieve. I had it repaired five years ago, but now the leaks are starting again. It’s a cast stone fountain that is mortared onto a concrete slab. How do I get it fixed?
A: These cast stone fountains are manufactured to simulate various types of natural cut stone. They are usually made from cement with mineral pigments or decorative aggregates put into the mixture. They can look very beautiful, but they rarely last a long time because of leaks and maintenance problems.
But here is what you can do to increase its lifespan: Depending on the size of your fountain, you need to buy a 40- or 60-pound bag or two of powdered sealant that is epoxy-based. This type of sealer is also used for water silos and for basement waterproofing in hillside homes. Then power-wash your fountain inside and out. Be especially careful to get rid of all the mold inside by cleaning with a wire brush. You might even wash those moldy areas with a mild muriatic acid solution. Let the fountain dry out completely before taking the next step.
Then, according to package directions, mix the epoxy sealer with water in a wheelbarrow. Apply the sealer thoroughly to the entire inside of the fountain with a brush or a trowel. Put a couple of coats on that inside surface. Let the structure dry thoroughly before turning on the fountain again. That should help quite a bit.
If you decide to buy another fountain later on, be sure to do this water-proofing process before you even start using that new structure. Remember these fountains also suffer from calcium build-up due to the hardness of our water in Arizona. So you might think about using only water that has been treated in a softener to run through your fountain.
Q: I have an 8-by-10 covered patio that is very shady. I have had great success with hanging plants, but I also have some soil beds where I would like to grow vegetables. Which veggies would work best in a shaded environment?
A: Winter vegetables like lettuce, bok choy and chard would do very well. You can’t plant asparagus or cucumbers because they don’t like the shade. Rhubarb, blueberries and horseradish are possibilities, as well as some bell peppers, but not chile peppers. Herbs generally will succeed, though not rosemary or lavender. Artichokes will work.
Q: What kinds of shade trees will work well in my yard in the Tucson area?
A: We like ash trees and cottonwoods, all of which have native varieties that grow wild in riverbeds in the Tucson area. If you plant Chinese pistache, you can get some fall color into your yard, of course. Believe it or not, there are native walnuts that grow only in Southern Arizona, But you need a lot of room for them as they can grow to 50-feet in height. They also have to be planted at about 2,500 feet in elevation.