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ALC FAQs

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Below is a list of frequently asked questions related to Quail Creek's ALC Requirements & Guidelines (Updated July 7, 2017). For more specific questions, please contact the ALC directly, 520-393-5803 or qcalc@robson.com.



The Agave snout-nosed Beetle (Scyphophorus acupunctatus) are an unfortunate pest to the agave garden. The agave plants can be thriving one day and suddenly show evidence of infestation and collapse the next day. By the time one notices the attack, a great deal of damage will have already taken place.

The beetle drills a hole in the heart of the agave then lays eggs. When eggs hatch the new grubs begin eating the heart out of the plant. As they eat and grow they also introduce bacteria and rot, and this kills the agave.

In order to protect most agave, it is necessary to treat the soil with grub killer such as “Merit”.  The ALC recommends consulting a reputable nursery for help in protecting your agave.

The “Century Plant” or agave americana sends a spectacular stalk out in early summer that can reach 30 feet!  The spike will have flowers and fruit and then the main plant will die.  The stalk, however, can remain for several years.  In the Quail Creek Common areas, there may be agave sending forth this glorious stalk.  Please leave the plant and the stalk alone.  Some landscapers and residents have cut down and hauled the stalks away.  These stalks are not free for the taking.  Leave them in place for all the Quail Creek residents to enjoy.

ALC Guidelines call for screening plants or walls to hide the A/C unit from the street.  If you are on a golf course lot, you are required to screen both sides of the A/C unit.  The ALC recommends Desert cassis, dwarf oleander, hopseed, photenia, and Texas ranger as excellent screening plants.  The ALC will consider other plants.  Plants that become dormant (e.g., Mexican Bird of Paradise) during the winter are inappropriate for screening purposes.

A misconception about the ALC Guidelines is that they are ironclad regulations.  In fact, they are guidelines.  They can’t cover all issues or possibilities.  For example, the Guidelines call for twenty 5 gallon plants and a five foot tree in the front yard.  However, some lots are small with confined front yards.  Twenty plants and a tree would fill the yard completely.  Other lots are huge.  Twenty plants and a tree would be hard to find in some of these lots! The ALC wants to see more plants in these huge lots.  Are you considering changing your current planting scheme or are you trying to figure out what to do with all that bare ground? Please consider spending a little bit of time on a Thursday morning with the ALC discussing your ideas.

If you receive a “weed letter,” or  “notice of non-compliance” that you have violated the ALC Requirements & Guidelines and don’t agree please read the offending letter carefully and then refer to your copy of the current Architectural & Landscape Requirements & Guidelines (Updated July 7, 2017).  If you still think that you are not in violation, attend an ALC meeting on Thursday or contact the ALC Co-Chair, James Koch, 520-393-5803 or qcalc@robson.com.

The ALC meets once a week, Thursdays, 9 AM in the Gold Room of the Madera Clubhouse. If you wish to meet with the ALC to discuss plans or concerns please follow these suggestions:

  • Sign up early. The sign up sheet is placed on the bar approximately 7 AM on Thursdays. The committee holds a business meeting before reviewing permit applications. If the business meeting is shorter than usual, the ALC begins reviewing resident requests before 9 AM. The ALC calls residents in order, however, if you are not present when your name is called, the next person is called.
  • Fill out a permit application BEFORE sitting down with the committee. Download a Permit Application or get one from the rack around the corner from the Madera Clubhouse front desk.
  • If your project is new landscaping, wall building, BBQ or water feature installation, you’ll need several things:
  1. The plot plan of your property, e.g., location of easements, building envelope, etc.
  2. Permits and/or “zoning clearance” approval from the Town of Sahuarita for walls, electrical and gas installations. The ALC can only provide the “green sheet” AFTER Sahuarita has approved your plan. Be aware that Quail Creek ALC Guidelines may contain additional restrictions beyond the Town of Sahuarita.
  3. Drawings showing your project, e.g., where will that redwood be planted, will the “swim-up bar” have electricity to it, where will the gas line be run for your new fire pit.
  • Changing a wall’s height?  If the wall is on the property line, you’ll need a Wall Agreement Between Property Owners form signed off by the neighbors that share the wall with you.
  • The ALC permit costs $10. Cash and checks are accepted too but not credit cards.
  • Proposing something different from the norm often requires extra time and consideration.  Don’t be surprised if the committee refuses to make a snap decision.
  • Sometimes applications take time to review. Applications are handled as quickly as possible in the order of sign up. Please remember that ALC Committee members are volunteers.

Read the current ALC Requirements & Guidelines (Updated July 7, 2017). Hard copies are available from the Concierge Desk, located in the lobby of the Madera Clubhouse.  For almost all changes to the exterior of your home and/or landscaping, you need a permit from the ALC.  The ALC meets on Thursday mornings and start the permit hearings at 9 AM in the Madera Clubhouse.  The sign up sheet is available about 7:00 AM.  You’ll need a permit application, drawings or pictures of your project, and permits from the City of Sahuarita if it’s a building project (patio cover, party wall, gas line extension, etc.)  Swapping out a small plant or installing low voltage lighting doesn’t require a permit.

  • Online Permit Application - The ALC's online Permit Application form was meant to save residents time and energy tracking down the application before they came to the committee for a review of their project.  Do not drop off completed forms in the Madera Clubhouse.  Permits are approved or rejected in person, on Thursdays, starting at 9 AM in the Gold Room of the Madera Clubhouse. 
  • Permit Issued AFTER Closing - The ALC can issue a permit only AFTER you have closed on your new home.  The ALC cannot issue a permit if the proper permits haven’t been obtained from the Town of Sahuarita.  The town requires paperwork if you are installing exterior line voltage (120 volt) for a water feature pump, BBQ, light or similar device.  Are you planning a gas-fired BBQ or fire pit? Get a permit.  Building a wall?  Any wall on the property line needs Sahuarita clearances.  Save time and frustration by obtaining Sahuarita permits BEFORE you apply for an ALC permit. 
  • Post Permits During Work - Green sheet permits must be posted in a front window so it is visible from the street.  Quail Creek Patrol will stop work on jobs if there is no permit visible.  This includes adding gutters and down spouts.  If the project requires additional time for completion, call the ALC voice-mail, 520-393-5803, or come to an ALC meeting on Thursday for an extension of the permit.  This is necessary to be sure contractors and homeowners have the appropriate clearance.  The contractor should remove advertising signs upon completion of the work.  If not, expect an ALC member to remove them.  When the work is finished, remove the green sheet and turn it in to the front desk at the Madera Clubhouse. 
  • Trees - Before you dig a hole for that new tree (you do have an ALC permit, don’t you? See ALC Requirements & Guidelines, section 3.2), drive around Quail Creek to observe the potential size of your tree in two or three years.  Growth rates are amazing in the desert when you add water!  The ALC recommends you do not plant your trees within six feet of the property line and that you plant nothing closer to your house than four feet.  These are suggestions that may save you headaches down the road.

The Declaration of Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions, or CC&R’s, is a legal document. Ownership in a community with CC&R’s demands that homeowners follow these requirements.  Our CC&R’s requires that there be an Architectural and Landscaping Committee which is responsible for enforcing the rules that apply to landscaping and architecture.

The ALC requires that you submit a plan for your original landscaping and subsequent improvements to the exterior of your home.  This is required by the CC&R’s.  The intent is to maintain the appearance of our community, to prevent dangerous situations and unpleasant surprises.  The ALC must maintain a file of plans for all properties in the community so that when a property is sold, actually when it is in escrow, legal requirements for disclosure can be met.  Those requirements include a signed statement from the ALC saying that it knows of no violations of the Guidelines on a given property.  If the ALC must take time to investigate the property there could be a delay in closing the escrow, but an up to date file of plans and improvements means there should be no delay in providing the statement.

Please note the following:

  • Painting the exterior of a home or its perimeter walls requires an ALC permit.  This includes trim and doors.
  • Paint colors are restricted to those used by the developer for private homes.  Samples of these colors are available at the ALC.
  • Freestanding trellises, lattice panels, archways and arbors are prohibited.  Lattice panels used to support plant material must be securely fastened to the building or perimeter wall.
  • When a permit is applied for and a project approved, there can be no last minute deviation from that plan without the approval of the ALC.  This means that when your landscaper executes an approved plan he must stick to the plan.  If not, you, the homeowner, are in violation.  Please see Section 4.2.1 of the CC&R’s which states, “…the owner shall diligently pursue completion of the improvement in accordance with the approved plans.”
  • “Yard art”, in front or street side yards, that is not compatible with Sonoran Desert design is prohibited.  Examples: Oriental lanterns or other oriental objects, Victorian gazing balls, inappropriate statues such as Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs, windmills, clever signs and Pink Flamingos.  Anything added after your initial approved landscaping is done must come to the ALC for approval, with the exception of minor plants.
  • Landscaping, seeding or trimming by homeowners in the common area is prohibited.  This includes stepping stones, rock and plants.  Common areas belong to the Association and it is not a homeowner’s right or responsibility to maintain such an area.  There is an issue of liability to the Association if anyone were to be injured there, and we would all pay for someone’s whim.
  • Homeowners sometimes overlook the fact that yards must be maintained in a neat and clean condition whether the owner is in residence or not.  Shrubbery that hangs out over sidewalks or streets must be trimmed so as not to be a hazard to vehicles or pedestrians.  Section 4.2.19 of the CC&R’s requires that plant material must not encroach upon streets or walkways from the ground level to a height of eight (8) feet.
  • Placement of satellite dishes are governed by the ALC Guidelines.  There are rules to go by and we want to work with you to be sure that the placement of your antenna is both esthetically pleasing and that you get a good signal, so please notify the ALC if you anticipate putting up an antenna.  Article 4.35.

While long time residents in Quail Creek did not have to worry about these rules under the former CC&R’s, be reminded that anything you do from now on comes under the current Guidelines and must have ALC approval.

The Arizona State Registrar of Contractors has a website which you can use to access information about the license status of a contractor and whether or not there have been complaints.  The url is www.azroc.gov/

Many backyards sport hummingbird feeders and a variety of seed feeders.  All manner of feathered friends come to these “fueling stations:” house finches, upside down feeding gold finches, cactus wrens, curved bill thrashers and too many varieties of hummingbirds to count.  How do birds and the ALC connect?  We connect through ALC Guideline 4.36, “Bird Feeders & Birdhouses.” Feeders are limited to a height of six feet and must be placed entirely within the lot lines.  Seed-type feeders are limited to a maximum of two feeders and may be placed in the backyard only.

Feeders are prohibited in common areas and on common walls

Residents may not locate bird feeders, “yard art” or other personal property in the common areas, the golf course, or other areas beyond their own property. The ALC enforces the ALC Guideline 4.36 and the CC&Rs that prohibit personal property in the common areas and on the golf course.  After notice is given (an orange flyer attached to the offending object), the owner will have ten (10) days to remove it.  After that time employees of Robson/POA will remove and destroy the item. 

When the homeowner is “not in residence,” the feeders should be taken down.  A couple of suggestions may improve your birding experience:

  • Remove feeders on high wind days to reduce spillage
  • Microwave sunflower seeds for 3 minutes to prevent sprouting of the spilled seed
  • A “shop vac” makes short work of the seed on the ground except in very fine gravel. 
  • Do not feed birds by broadcasting seed on the ground. Spilled seed attracts mice and mice attract snakes.

The best time for planting citrus is March or early April after danger of frost has passed, but fall planting in October or early November is acceptable.  Trees planted in fall must be given adequate frost protection during the winter.  In fact it is wise to protect all young citrus trees from frost for the first two to three years.  The most tender of the citrus family is the Lime and the least tender is the Grapefruit. Oranges and lemons fall somewhere in between. Cover trees with burlap or cloth when frost is expected during the night and remove it in the daytime to allow the sun to reach the leaves.  NEVER use plastic for a cover, as it does not offer protection from the cold.  Some people have had success by putting Xmas lights on trees (not the tiny ones, but the larger type bulbs).  On cold nights it is a good idea to cover the lighted tree as well.

If, in spite of your efforts, you have some frozen leaves or branches, do not prune until spring when the new growth starts to come out and you can tell exactly how much damage there is. Always prune young trees sparingly; in fact usually the only pruning necessary is the removal of sucker growth that comes out below the bud union – that funny bump at the lower end of the trunk. It has been said that citrus trees are like teenagers – they go off in all directions, but with time the trees will become more orderly.

The trunks of young citrus should be protected from sunburn either by whitewash or paper tree wrap. Garden shops usually have tree wrap, which is convenient to use.

Normally no fertilizer is needed during the first growing season.  Over fertilizing at any time can cause leaf burn and rapid defoliation, so always follow the directions given.  If a little is good, more is not necessarily better.  There are many brands of citrus food available so pick a favorite and enjoy the fruit of your labors.

We often have small jobs around the house that we can’t do ourselves. Who can we hire?  The ALC strongly suggests that you hire only state licensed contractors to work on your home. There are several reasons:

  • Licensed contractors are bonded and insured.
  • Their employees are covered by workers’ compensation should they be injured.

If the home is damaged by an unlicensed contractor, your Robson home warranty is voided. The homeowner will have no recourse. A licensed contractor is bonded and insured. An unlicensed contractor may not have such coverage.

Is the contractor LICENSED to do the kind of work he is being hired to do? For example, is the contractor licensed to handle landscaping chores AND wall building? Running natural gas lines to the new BBQ? Electrical power to the new water feature? What if the contractor is not properly licensed? The homeowner is running a significant risk. If one of the contractor’s employees is injured while building a wall but the contractor is licensed only for planting and irrigation systems, the homeowner could be liable for the medical bills since the injury occurred on the homeowner’s property. Workers’ comp won’t pay for injuries to unlicensed contractor employees. Check the license status of the contractors you employ! How? Call the Tucson Office of the Arizona Registrar of Contractors at 628-6345 or go on-line at http://www.azroc.gov/.

If you have any questions or concerns, contact any ALC member or drop by the ALC meetings at 9 AM every Thursday in the Gold Room.

The placement of decorative tiles ANYWHERE on the exterior of a building or wall requires an ALC permit.  Failure to obtain such a permit BEFORE placing decorative tiles on the home may result in their removal at the owner’s expense.

Decorative tiles on the home’s exterior may be permitted in the following cases:

  • Accent tiles in a courtyard wall.  The design for placement of accent tiles must be approved by the ALC BEFORE work begins.  Tile samples may be required to be submitted to the ALC before the permit can be issued.
  • Tile murals or tile pictures near the front entry door.  Such displays must be of a Sonoran Desert theme and limited in size to no more than 3 feet by 2 feet.  The design and placement of such tile murals or pictures must be approved by the ALC BEFORE work begins..
  • Prt of a display of the home’s house numbers. In this case, the decorative tile is limited to one square foot, e.g., 1 foot X 1 foot or 2 foot X 6 inches and shall be of a Sonoran Desert theme.

Decorative tile murals or pictures (even if they meet the 3’X2’ size limit) SHALL NOT be placed on the street-facing or golf course sides of the home, garage, courtyard wall, or casita. Tiles may not be used around windows or doorways.

Each case of exterior tile work will be unique and shall be judged on its own particular circumstances. The judgment of the ALC, in a particular situation on what is permissible, is the determining factor.

ALC Requirements & Guidelines Article 3.25

Some new homeowners in Quail Creek attempt to do their own landscaping.  The reason many choose the “do it yourself” route is simple: MONEY.  Large lots require huge amounts of landscaping rock and many plants, lots of drip irrigation lines and miles of landscape lighting wire. The soil is the consistency of adobe, and 20 cubic yards of landscape rock means many trips with the wheel barrow around the property.  We haven’t even begun to discuss the placement of pavers, creation of water features or selection of appropriate plants.

Some DIY landscaping jobs in Quail Creek are beautiful, but some leave much to be desired.  Is there mounding? Are the plants appropriate and correctly sized?  Is the job compatible with the other homes in the area?  Can the homeowner meet the 90 day deadline? How is staging of materials to be managed?  The ALC recommends that the new homeowner who is not experienced in southern Arizona landscaping leave the job to the pros.  Supervise the work carefully, but let their experience in dealing with Sonoran desert conditions do the job.

September and October can be looked upon as a second spring in the desert.  The heat of summer is abating and the monsoon rains are probably over.  This can be a great time to plant many things and of course that means the weeds are about to take over again.  During this time ALC may be required to send out weed notices to residents. It is the ALC's job to see that properties are maintained in good condition for the benefit of all residents and the community.  Weed inspections are carried out on a monthly basis and notices are sent.

One weed in particular needs to be controlled.  It is the plant with large white trumpet shaped flowers and gray-green leaves. Actually very pretty,  grows very fast and seems to need no water.  Commonly known as Jimson Weed or Sacred Datura the plant was used as a hallucinogenic by natives of the southwest. It is poisonous to livestock and humans. Even handling the leaves can irritate your skin. The plant seeds freely and is difficult to eradicate. Since we live in the center of a ranching area it seems irresponsible to allow the spread of a toxic weed.

With the advent cooler weather our second spring is a good time to plant most things, but we want to remind you of just a few plants that can be planted with probable success. For vegetable gardeners it is a good time to plant broccoli, cabbage, carrots, green onions and leaf lettuce.  Have you ever thought of growing these in pots?  There are a number of annuals available at the nurseries and usually they stock varieties that will thrive. 

Most trees can be planted now also and the ALC encourages the use of trees. However, please remember to get a permit BEFORE you plant that tree. The Guidelines provide for a $250 penalty for any work done before a permit is issued, Article 3.2.

The abundance of rain has possibly leached some of the good things out of our soil as well as the salts. Think about whether you need to fertilize again.  Chlorosis, iron deficiency, is something to watch for in your plants especially in the new growth.  If you have yellow leaves with green veins it is probable that you need to add some iron to the soil around that plant.  “Ironite” is widely sold here, but a much more effective product is any chelated-iron solution.  Because of the calcium content of our soil a chelated-iron is more readily available to plants.

If you plan to burn wood in your outdoor fire pit or chiminea, the ALC strongly recommends you consider the advantages of a gas-fired unit instead.  The smoke from a wood burner can be a nuisance to you and your neighbors and a fire hazard on windy and dry days. Stored fire wood is an attractive place for pack rats and termites! Several local outlets have “fire tables” that have a fire pit built into the table and run on LP gas for complete portability.

All new installations must be gas per ALC Requirements & Guidelines, Article 4.28 (Updated July 7, 2017)

The ALC Guidelines cover display of flags and windsocks, Article 4.27, in Quail Creek. The Guidelines allow a maximum of two flags and two windsocks on any one property. Flags may not exceed 3 feet by 5 feet in size. Most people use a removable pole and a flagpole holder attached to their home (no ALC permit required). With an ALC permit, you may install a permanent flag pole, no taller than 20 fee or the top of your home whichever is lower. The fixed pole can be no closer than 10 feet to your property lines. The pole should be metal or fiberglass.

Flags should be flown sunrise to sunset only. We have received inquiries about lighting flag poles for 24 hour display. Unfortunately, line voltage lights may NOT be left on indefinitely and unattended, Article 4.24.

Don’t be too hasty in cutting back frost-damaged plants.  The brown and shriveled leaves are easy to spot, but the die back of stems may not be so evident.  It is best to wait until the new growth begins to show to do your pruning so that the only thing removed is the dead wood.

Start too soon and you may remove potential growth of next season. The dried and damaged leaves may help to insulate the plant from further cold damage.  If you just can’t stand those sad looking plants, be very careful that you are not cutting living stems or branches. Starting at the tips of stems, begin cutting back gradually and if you see any green, STOP.  If you are uncertain about the viability of a branch, scratch off a little bark and look at the color of the layer underneath, i.e. the cambium layer. This should appear either white, creamy, light beige or green in color.  If it is black or brown the branch or stem is dead at that location. Cutting back at this time of the year may encourage new growth to come out which will be even more tender.

Queen Palms are commonly used in this area and they are often subject to frost damage.  The problem with these trees is that if the center bud is damaged the entire plant is lost. If you think the center bud has been frozen you should consult a nurseryman about treatment to try to save the plant.  Of course prevention is the best medicine.   Queen Palms can be bundled to protect the center bud if you anticipate very cold weather.

Cold injured trees or shrubs should be watered about once every two weeks in the absence of rain.  Fertilization at this time is not recommended as it may force new and tender growth and is best done after the weather warms about March or so.

Special considerations apply to golf course lots.

  • Air conditioning units, pool and water feature pumps, and other equipment must be screened from BOTH the street and the golf course sides. ALC Guidelines 4.34 and 4.37.
  • There are specific numbers of plants required in your backyard - 12 plants of at least five gallon size and a five foot tall tree or a 6 foot saguaro. ALC Guideline 5.4.
  • Equipment and storage sheds are prohibited on golf course lots. (ALC Guideline 4.41g and CCR 4.2.1)

Homeowners need to remember that the maximum number is 5 feet or 60 inches.

  • Walls, fountains, water features, chimineas, outside fireplaces, BBQs, kivas, etc. have a MAXIMUM height restriction of five feet (60 inches)
  • Walls higher than four feet also have special restrictions. ALC Guidelines 4.13 and 4.17. 

Of course, installation of such items requires an ALC permit.  You need additional permits from the City of Sahuarita if gas or 120 volt electric lines need to be installed or altered.  Walls also require Sahuarita permits.

Landscape design, plant selection, water feature construction, gas and electric lines to be run and permits, permits, permits! How is a new homeowner (or a seasoned resident for that matter!) supposed to cope with all of this while shopping for new window treatments and unpacking boxes? The ALC recommends that some of these chores are better handled by landscape professionals. Many of us hail from cooler climes and are not acquainted with the plants of the desert and the rigors of digging in this adobe soil. We recommend using licensed (and bonded) contractors for landscaping work. Call the Tucson Office of the Arizona Registrar of Contractors at 628-6345 or go on-line at http://www.azroc.gov/.  

If you are a new resident and face the task of landscaping within the first ninety days of ownership, start your search for a contractor begin BEFORE closing. Of course, no work can be done before closing (and the permit can’t be issued by the ALC early), but the preliminary planning and the contractual arrangements can all be made so that shortly after closing landscape work can begin. Landscaping firms are busy and may be slow to return calls. Homeowners should get several bids as the charges can vary greatly. Select your contractor carefully. Homeowners should get several bids as the charges can vary greatly. The ALC can not act as an arbitrator in disputes between home owners and contractors. See ALC Requirements & Guidelines Article 1.7.

Virtually every landscaper plants a sign in the yard of his latest project, advertising his services. Information is wonderful but after the job is done and the permit (the green sheet) is returned to the Madera Clubhouse, the landscaper’s sign should come down.  Since those signs are expensive, the landscaper would appreciate a phone call as a reminder to reclaim the sign.  Otherwise, Patrol or the ALC will be happy to swing by and pick up the sign!

Most of us are transplants from other parts of the country, usually from non-desert areas.  We probably moved here knowing little about the desert and its plants.  Two excellent resources (and there are many others) are: Arizona Gardener’s Guide by Mary Irish and Landscape Plants for Dry Regions by Jones and Sacamano.  These available from Amazon.com as well as the Green Valley Library.

Some landscapers lower the grade in the front yard, and the dirt is more than two inches below the curb.  The landscaper then fills the void with extra landscaping gravel and calls it good.  Wrong! As the monsoon rains rip down the drainage area toward the street, the water soaks through the rock and can undermine the curb and even the pavement in the street.  A little time and effort spent NOW checking the depth from the top of the curb to the compacted dirt will be much cheaper than paying for curb and street repairs later!

If the landscaping on the common areas is looking sad or dead, you should call the ALC to complain, right?  No.  The ALC does not maintain the common areas, washes,  retention areas, or golf course. 

Depending on the area, contact the following:

  • Golf Course - Joel Jaress, Golf Pro, Joel.Jaress@Robson.com, 520-393-5802
  • Common Areas, Washes or Retention Areas - Mike Taylor, General Manager, Mike.Taylor@Robson.com, 520-393-5822

Quail Creek ALC Guidelines require that landscaping now contain mounds in the front and back yards for visual interest (see ALC Guideline 5.4).  Such mounds need to be several feet in diameter and not more than 18 inches above the surrounding grade.  The ALC recommends that the mounding not consist of just gravel piled helter-skelter around the yard.  The mound should be built of dirt (moderately compacted) and then covered with the ground cover gravel (minimum size 3/8 inch). Boulders, cacti, and other natural, Sonoran desert plants create an interesting and beautiful landscape when mounding is properly done.

We are privileged to live in a part of the country that has wonderful, clear and dark night skies, a fact recognized by astronomers, amateur and otherwise.  If we want to continue to be able to enjoy the starry nights we must be careful with outdoor lighting.

We need good lighting for security, safety, utility and for an attractive nighttime environment around us. Not all lighting is good lighting. Glare from an overly bright or poorly directed light never helps visibility.  A light that is directed downward where it is needed does not add to the unwanted light in the sky.

Garage Sconce Lights - New/revamped models have different garage sconces with glass instead of terracotta material.  The lights appear much brighter!  The ALC Guidelines on exterior wattage is very clear: only 30 watts per fixture if it has glass panes.  The bulbs must be frosted, have a shield or frosted glass, ALC Guidelines 4.23, 4.24, 4.25, CC&R's 4.2.7. If 30 watt bulbs are not available, 25 watt lights will have to do.

Walkway Lighting - Use the right amount of light, not overkill. Be sure the light is directed downward and not up or sideways.  Most good walkway lighting is so designed. While no permit is needed to add “navigator” or low voltage walkway lighting we urge you to consider using shielded fixtures.

Post Lights - ALC Guidelines require that the combined wattage of bulbs in a post light shall not exceed 30 watts. Post lights can also have a fixture that directs the light downward. ALC Guideline 4.23

Floodlights - Exterior lighting must not create a nuisance to neighbors. Security floodlights may only be used on an intermittent basis and may not be used to continuously illuminate patios, statuary or other objects in the landscape. These light fixtures are intended for occasional emergency or security use only.

Christmas Lights - Christmas decorations and lights may be installed without a permit.  They should be removed within a reasonable amount of time and not left in place for the entire year.

That little Mesquite tree that you planted will not ask much of you, but there are just a few things that should be done for it. In a few years he will have grown into a wonderful shade tree with a diameter of 20 feet or more.

Mesquites must be staked properly or one day, during a monsoon, the tree’s roots will be in the air and several years of growth will have been lost.  At that point there is nothing to do but start over.  The combination of very wet ground and high winds is lethal in many cases because the tree has become top heavy and has a small shallow root system.  

Defense against this situation is twofold: Proper staking and adequate thinning of the top growth to allow the wind to pass through.  If the branches are merely headed back to reduce the size, the tree will become more and more dense and top heavy – a lollipop tree.  Long graceful branches, properly thinned make a beautiful tree and one that can resist the force of strong winds.

Proper staking should be done at planting time, but if that has not been done it should be done early. A tree should not be tied tightly to a center stake so that it cannot move at all as it will become strong only if the trunk can move and bend. Two or three stakes about a foot or so from the tree trunk are proper.Wire cable fastened to the stakes and encased in plastic or a length of hose as it passes around the trunk, will support the tree while allowing it to move slightly in all directions.

There are probably irrigation emitters at the base of the newly planted tree providing water frequently. Mesquites are desert trees and after the first year should have no water except what is available from rainfall.

This encourages deep root growth and lateral roots that search for water; thus giving the tree strength to withstand the wind.  In times of extreme drought an occasional deep watering may be beneficial.

This brings us to another thing you MUST do for the tree. It needs to be thinned out so that the wind can pass through. Very heavy pruning of trees is best done during their dormant season; however, Mesquites can be pruned to some extent at any time. Careful selection of main branches will produce a well-shaped tree and thinning will reduce the risk of storm damage or loss. If the homeowner does not feel up to the task, professional tree trimmers can be found in the Yellow Pages under “Tree Service”. Considering the cost of tree replacement and the clean up of a fallen tree it is a good investment.

Effective June 10, 2013 all painting contractors requesting an ALC permit at Quail Creek will have to submit a paint sample of the stucco and trim colors with the permit request. Please do not bring paint samples on wood. A piece of paper will do.

If you are only painting the stucco, and it is not a Santa Fe style home, then the ALC will require a paint sample of the trim. Or if you are only painting the trim, the ALC will require a paint sample of the stucco.

If you should send your client (homeowner) for the permit they, too, will have to submit the paint samples with the request. 

Have an idea for a door color? Come to the ALC (Thursday mornings starting at 9 AM in the Gold Room of the Madera Clubhouse) to discuss what you want to do with your front door color. “But two of my neighbors have ‘unique’ door colors.” They may have those colors. Did they get a permit? The ALC strongly recommends that residents confine color choices to the enlarged palette of colors that Robson applies to the new models. “OK, so I’ll just forget to get a permit and paint the door the colors I want.” ALC Guidelines point out that work done without a permit can subject the homeowner to fines ($250) and the additional cost of repainting the door an acceptable color.

Part of the underlying philosophy of the ALC is that the plants and house colors in Quail Creek should blend harmoniously.  When having gutters and downspouts installed, your ALC permit will specify that the colors are to match as closely as possible, ALC Guideline 4.30. The several contractors in the area don’t have an exact match for every Robson color in their paint palette.  However, YOU can easily exactly match your downspouts to your house color.  With your “Homeowner’s Touch Up Kit” from Robson in hand, visit a quality paint store (e.g., Sherwin Williams or similar) and order a gallon of exterior latex matched to the small touch-up can of the exterior color of your home.  While you wait for their computer to match your paint, find the sanding sponges. Medium grit is OK.  A couple of cheap foam brushes and you’re out the door! At home, sand the down spout just enough to dull the high gloss shine.  Apply the new paint.  It will dry quickly in the warm, dry temps of Quail Creek.  A second coat may be required but probably not.  Note how the downspouts fade into the color of the house and are less obtrusive. Your new paint is adhering to the baked on enamel of the down spout and won’t peel off.

What if your neighbor’s tree is overhanging your property?  Can you trim that overhanging branch?  Before you fire up your chainsaw, discuss the problem with your neighbor.  Point out that trimming the branch on your side will strengthen the branches on the other side.  Trim carefully at a fork in the branch.  Keeping the plant trimmed properly will enhance the appearance and health of the plant.

If you are about to put their Quail Creek home on the market contact the ALC.  Why?  A little known duty of the ALC is to assure that the property meets the appropriate ALC Guidelines when the sale closes escrow.  If there are problems with the landscaping, the deal won’t close until those problems are fixed.  We can save the seller some headaches by identifying the problems NOW before there are a thousand moving chores to get done.  Let us do a quick inspection and issue a report with the deficiencies (if any), and the seller will have more time to correct any problems in a timely and less expensive fashion.

Rattlesnakes are important members of the desert community. They are largely responsible for controlling the vast population of desert rodents. Without such predators, mice, rats, and rabbits could reproduce unchecked creating destruction and spreading disease. However, that doesn't mean you want one curled up in your garden hose.

What do you do if a rattler decides to take up occupancy on your patio?  Stay safe!  Move away from the snake and call Patrol. 393-2941. It will be helpful to keep the critter in sight but from a safe distance. Patrol will notify the Fire Department who will transfer the “visitor” to a remote desert area.

Aphids can be knocked off by a strong spray of water from the hose, but if that doesn’t get them, one of the best sprays for Aphids is a soap and water solution and the best soap to use is Dawn dish-washing liquid.  Use up to two tablespoons per gallon of water and test a few leaves first as a few plants are sensitive to soap.

The first sign of Aphids may be a very shiny, wet looking leaf. Because the Aphid sucks the juices from plants, they excrete a sticky material called aphid honeydew, which is very shiny and easy to spot.  There are several kinds of Aphids: 

  • Arborvitae aphid (brown) 
  • Cotton or Melon aphid (dark green to black), found on oranges among other plants
  • Oleander aphid (yellow-orange), which seldom does any damage
  • Rose aphid (large, either green or pinkish)

As warmer weather progresses and plants begin to put out new growth a variety of leaf damage appears.  One of the more interesting is the Leaf Cutter Bee.  Adults are fuzzy gray to brown bees about ½ to ¾ of an inch in length.  They cut neatly rounded pieces from the edges of leaves, particularly roses.  The female stuffs the pieces of leaf into a tunnel or burrow to create a safe chamber for her larvae.  She then gathers pollen to feed her offspring.  This bee is an important pollinator and is best left alone as no real harm is done to the plant except for its appearance.  In any case, poison sprays will do no harm to the bee since she does not ingest the leaf she cuts.

If you are considering a “bug zapper” light, the Master Gardener Entomology Manual says, “Bug killer lights may do more harm than good because they seldom catch the insects you want to control and are known to attract pest insects away from neighboring yards.  They kill more beneficial insects such as lacewings, parasitic wasps, etc.,  than pests.”

Fall is the time to plant the seeds for spring wildflowers. When planting seeds be sure to scratch them into the soil so the birds will not find them so easily, they love them! With any luck the winter rains will come and in the spring the wildflowers will bounce up and be beautiful. If the rains do not materialize you may have to do some regular watering as the weather begins to warm up again in order to produce germination, but be sure to use a gentle spray.

Wildflowers can make a beautiful display, but are best suited to rear yards as when they go to seed they may drift into neighboring yards and become weeds. They do look weedy when they are past their prime so it is best to gather the seed and plant it the next year rather than leave them to their own devices. The weedy looking wildflower can then be disposed of and your yard is once again neat and clean. There are a few exceptions that will last until the next spring and can be cut back in order to be more presentable.  Penstemon is one of them.

Some of the best wildflowers for our area are Desert Bluebells, African Daisies, Penstemon, California Poppies, Desert Marigold, Indian Blanket, Lupine and Desert Globe Mallow. Some or all of these seeds are available in various nurseries, at the Desert Museum or at Tohono Chul.

As the weather cools rethink your watering schedule.  With cooler weather and shorter days plants begin to slow down and require less water and nutrients.  Feeding too late in the season is not a good idea as it will encourage new growth that may be damaged on one of the frosty nights to come.

Fall and Spring are good times to apply a pre-emergent for weed control.  Remember not to put it on your newly planted wildflower seeds tho, as they will not germinate.  Of course that is the whole idea when it comes to those weed pests. The pre-emergent puts a protective barrier on the soil, but does no harm to existing plants.  This treatment can be done by a professional (yellow pages under Weed Control) or you can do it yourself using products that are readily available.  If you do your own be sure to avoid breathing the spray and wash thoroughly after spraying. There are several pre-emergent products on the market; Surflan is only one of them.

Some residents seem to think that their trash cans belong outside, not in the garage.  Wrong! Why?  Beyond being basically ugly for neighbors to look at, trash cans stored outside can create an odor problem.  That “special smell” can attract critters, some of which you’d really not want to meet on a late night trip to take out the day’s trash!  While we are on this trashy topic, trash in that can is best stashed in plastic bags.  Trash collection days are often windy  and loose trash easily blows around the neighborhood.  Of course, the best trash cans have lids to prevent premature distribution of their contents!

Fall and winter often seem to come early, and that means it is time to cut back on watering plants.  As the weather cools and the length of days shorten, plant growth declines and nutritional needs are less.  If your system is set to water every three days in summer, a change to every six days would be appropriate.  Later, as temperatures remain lower and days shorter, it could be set to come on every 12 to 14 days.  This presupposes a mature landscape. Newly planted yards will require more frequent watering.  Established desert adapted trees and shrubs will need little or no supplemental water through the winter.  The watering cycle should be long enough to wet the soil to a depth of 18-14 inches, but in the case of larger shrubs and trees the depth should be 24-36 inches.  All of this depends on your individual soil structure. Some soil will not accept water as readily. Adjust the watering interval to your soil and plants.

Assess your watering system before the new growth period begins in the spring.  As the landscape matures the watering of trees and large shrubs must change to meet their needs.  Such roots can grow as much as three feet per year and the one or two drippers at the base of the newly planted tree need to be expanded to cover a larger area after the first year.  Place enough drippers at the tree’s drip line to wet the entire area under the branches of the tree or large shrub.  A tree with branches extending five feet from the trunk would need five drippers in clay soil and many more in sandy soil where water does not spread, but sinks down.

Maturing Mesquite trees are an exception to the increased watering rule. After the first year or so all supplementary water should be withheld from Mesquites.  This, along with proper thinning and pruning, will cause them to be less top heavy and have a wider root system, which will help to protect them from blowing over in the stormy season.

The ALC Guidelines say that walls may be up to four feet tall and made of Santa Rosa slump block. The front courtyard walls have a maximum height of four feet as measured from the front grade. Those front walls may be Santa Rosa slump or concrete block finished with stucco and painted to match the house. Chain link, wooden fences and chicken wire are expressly forbidden! 

A five foot wall is required if you have a swimming pool or hot tub without a locking top.  If you have neighbors, plan on getting their approval before building a five foot wall.

Your neighbors' approval is not required to erect a four foot wall. However, if there is an existing two foot wall and you wish to raise it to four feet, you’ll need your neighbor’s approval.

See ALC Requirements & Guidelines Article 4.13.

Weeds love this soil once the monsoons arrive, and their seeds receive a little moisture.  Head them off with a “pre-emergent” spray that will prevent, reduce or slow their appearance.  If you are a snow-bird, such treatment is a necessity since you won’t be here to pull the weeds.  The ALC Guidelines require home owners to maintain their property in a weed free state.  Fines and hassles can result.

During the holidays, it’s nearly impossible to think about weeds.  The ALC believes that the holiday season is an excellent time to plan weed control for the year.  The ALC Requirements & Guidelines Article 7.4 clearly requires that our properties be kept free of weeds.  Section 7.4 speaks of a twice yearly application of a pre-emergent spray.  This product will prevent the germination of the weed seeds we all have on the property.  Various contractors can do this service for you or the product is available at many home centers for application by the home owner.  This is an appropriate time to tackle the project BEFORE the winter rains and warmer spring temperatures get those seeds started.  After the weeds come up you have only one choice. Spray them and once they die, pull and properly dispose of them.  Using a pre-emergent spray would be much easier.

The ALC Guidelines require each of us to maintain our properties properly and that includes removal of unsightly weed growth.  See Article 7.4 (“Weed Control”).  The faster we spray those weeds, the better. After the weeds are dead they need to be pulled and disposed of properly.  Why doesn’t my pre-emergent stop the thistle weed?  That Russian thistle is one tough customer.  Some pre-emergent sprays work very well.  Others just don’t handle those thistle seeds.  The ALC advises to read the label information on your herbicide to determine whether it will control Russian Thistle.

Water features such as fountain, babbling brooks, and waterfalls can be wonderful additions to your courtyard or backyard.  We have suggestions and guidelines: 

  • No fountain or water feature may exceed 60 inches in height.
  • Water features are permitted only in the front courtyard and backyard. 
  • Moving water is required to reduce mosquito breeding and stagnant water problems. Moving the water around the feature usually requires a “line voltage” (120 volt) connection to a pump. The electrical installation must be buried and requires a Town of Sahuarita permit. 
  • Installation of a water feature also requires an ALC permit.
  • The local water in Quail Creek contains minerals which result in “free lime” stains and deposits as the water evaporates.
  • Treat water features the same as a swimming pool to prevent algae and slime from developing.  Appropriate chemicals are available at hardware and pool supply stores.
  • The pump requires periodic cleaning to assure smooth operation.

See ALC Requirements & Guidelines Article 4.26.

Drought takes a toll on many plants.  It might be a good idea to check your snow-bird neighbors’ yards for stressed plants that need a shot of water.  The drip system may not be providing sufficient water to the plants in the extreme heat.  A single, longer watering will be better than several brief “showers.” Let them “drink long, drink deep."

Windy days in Quail Creek can send construction debris all over the community.  Those same winds can also uproot trees that seemed to be well established.  A common problem is that residents leave the drip water system on those trees. The roots stay near the surface because that’s where the water is.  Professional landscapers suggest after a year or two, you reduce the water to the trees (in the cool season) to force their roots to go deeper to find water. Deeper roots mean a more stable tree.

Things are pretty clear: spray ‘em, pull ‘em or pay!   First things first:  check your own property and remove any weeds you find.  Then talk to your neighbor.  If that fails, bring your concerns to the ALC, either in person or by mail.  There is no “Weed Patrol” in Quail Creek so enforcement is dependent on residents being proactive.  We’ll check out the complaint and discuss the matter with your neighbor.  Those weeds will come out, sooner or later.  However, a little good humor and common sense between neighbors can solve the problem much faster than the heavy hand of the POA Board.

Many of the seedlings that come up here are wild flowers and can be beautiful, but a disorganized yard full of them soon looks like a weed patch.  Unfortunately, once the bloom period is over the plant will look very un-pretty!

Why not try a wildflower garden in the rear yard where you can enjoy it but not detract from the appearance of the neighborhood?  The best time to plant a wildflower garden from seed is in the fall.  In fact one way to remember planting is to plant on Halloween.  The winter rains (assuming they are on time) will get them started for you.  Of course, plants can be purchased and planted in the spring and will likely reseed for next spring.

Speaking of reseeding – remember those big green bushes out in the desert that had the beautiful fluffy white plumes in December?  They are Desert Broom (Baccharis sarothroides).  This plant (contrary to some books on desert gardening) is a terrible nuisance and is prohibited in Quail Creek.  All of those fluffy things floating in the air are seeds that will be happy to germinate in your yard, probably at the base of a thorny cactus, and produce another nuisance.  The plant is highly allergenic as well.  The seedlings are bright green and rather wiry in texture.  The first thing they will do is put down a very long taproot.  It does no good to cut the plant off unless you paint the fresh cut with a non-selective herbicide.  

According to the CC&R’s, weeds in a yard must be controlled whether the homeowner is in residence or not.  The same goes for general maintenance and trimming.  If you plan to be away from Quail Creek for any other extended period of time, having a maintenance service take care of your property will relieve you of the possibility of receiving a letter from the ALC telling you that you have a problem.  Such notices should not be ignored, as other action may be taken when a property becomes unsightly.

Wind chimes are not allowed according to the CC&R’s section 4.2.5.

February is a month to plan ahead and a good time to set out trees and shrubs.  If you plant now, don’t expect much in the way of growth until the weather warms up, but in the meantime the roots of new plants will develop.  Dig generous holes for new plants, the bigger the better.  In our hard compacted soil, planting the root ball in a hole just barely big enough is like putting the plant in a container and the new roots will just go around and around.  When you dig your nice big hole for a non-desert plant mix the soil you remove with plenty of peat moss, soil sulphur (to counteract the alkalinity) and a proper amount of slow release fertilizer, then fill in around the new plant with the amended soil.  It is a good idea to prepare the planting area ahead of time and then let the soil and amendments sit together for about a week to settle and mellow.

If planting a native of the desert never mind the sulphur as these plants are accustomed to the alkalinity of the soil.  Cacti have roots that spread out instead of going down, so dig their new homes accordingly.

This is also the month to be on the lookout for big yellow aphids on the oleander.  They move in fast and can weaken a plant.  A good soaking spray with insecticidal soap or Dawn liquid (1 tablespoon to a gallon of water) will usually get rid of them.

In Quail Creek the desert is part of our daily life.  Because of our environment we feel that we all have a responsibility to landscape wisely and Xeriscape landscaping is highly recommended.

The term Xeriscape comes from a combination of the Greek word “xeric” and the word landscape and is used to describe a water conserving landscape, which we highly recommend.  This does not mean that cactus is the only thing we should plant.  There are many shrubs and trees well adapted to desert life and in fact a number of them are native.  A landscape that is not softened by shrubbery and is entirely planted in cacti is stark in appearance.  Xeriscape design also allows for a mini-oasis.  This is an area, usually close to the house or patio, where moderate water use plants are used.  These plants are usually concentrated in areas separated from desert plants in order to maximize the use of water from the drip system.  A drip system is a good idea, even if one is using only desert plants and cacti.  Depending on natural rainfall can be an uncertain thing and when there is a prolonged drought, being able to turn on the water system may save the landscape from a slow death.

Most of the trees we see are Mesquites, but there are a number of others that are very attractive and suitable for low water use gardens.  Acacias (several varieties), Australian Willow (Geijera parviflora), Palo Verdes (Bleu and Palo Brea), some Palms, Arizona Ash, Swan Hill Olive and Texas Ebony are only a few.

Shrubs such as Cassia, Oleander, Texas Ranger, Hopbush, Indian Hawthorn, Mexican Bird of Paradise, Juniper and Bottlebrush will soften a yard landscaped primarily with cacti.

We do not recommend putting plastic sheeting down under crushed rock.  It is true that it will retard weed growth for a while, but not forever.  A better solution is a twice-yearly application of a pre-emergent to prevent the germination of weed seed.  The undesirable aspects of black plastic far outweigh the advantages.  In this climate the heat and intense sunlight cause the plastic to deteriorate and in a few years there will be pieces of the plastic sticking up through the rock.  It will also have holes in it allowing seeds to germinate.  Insects find a happy home under the plastic.  If placed to close to the base of cacti it can cause the plant to rot.  Most important of all is the fact that plastic sheeting wastes a valuable natural resource - rainfall.  When it comes, the rainwater simply runs off into the street and down to the storm drain, rather than sinking into the ground, watering plants and helping to replenish the aquifer.  Water from the drip system never does as much good for plants as rain does.

We need to be responsible guests in the desert by not putting in plants that will naturalize in the desert such as non-sterile grasses and other prolific plant material.  Much harm has been done already as evidenced by the spread of non-native grasses.

Recommended Books:

  • PLANTS FOR DRY CLIMATES – Mary Rose Duffield & Warren Jones
  • SUNSET WESTERN GARDEN BOOK – Sunset Publishing Corporation
  • DESERT LANDSCAPING – George Brookbank
  • LANDSCAPE PLANTS FOR DRY REGIONS – Wrren Jones

Recommended CD:

  • DESERT LANDSCAPING – U of A Water Resources Research Center

It is really not possible nor appropriate to make rules based on personal taste as it is such a subjective thing, but in our community we do have a rule about “Yard Art”.  The rule is that the front yard at least should be consistent with Sonoran Desert or Southwest design.  
This is not a new subject here or in other controlled communities.  The following is taken from the rules in another community and they assure us that each and every one of the “Unacceptables” has occurred in someone’s front yard in the recent past.

UNACCEPTABLE - Not Sonoran Desert Motif

  • Bowling Balls    
  • Cupids / Angels
  • Flamingoes
  • Garden Trolls
  • Gargoyles
  • Geese (dressed up)
  • Lions
  • Oriental Lanterns
  • Pagodas
  • Skis
  • Victorian Gazing Balls
  • Windmills

ACCEPTABLE - Consistent with Desert Motif

  • Buzzards
  • Cactus (iron or real)
  • Cowboys
  • Coyotes
  • Indian artifacts
  • Jackrabbits
  • Javelina
  • Kokopelli
  • Lizards
  • Quail
  • Roadrunners
  • Sun or Moon designs

The above are examples only.

If you think you don’t like cactus and desert plants we suggest you visit the following places during the next month or two.  The spring bloom of cactus and wildflowers is truly spectacular.  You will be amazed at the beauty of cactus blossoms.  Not to be missed are:

  • BACH’S CACTUS NURSERY, 8602 N.  Thornydale Rd., Tucson, AZ
  • BOYCE THOMPSON ARBORETUM, Hwy 60, Superior, AZ (no restaurant, but convenient picnic tables).  The Arboretum is located at Highway 60 Milepost #223 near the historic copper mining town of Superior, about one hour's drive due east of Phoenix on the Superstition Freeway.

Burning yard waste in an outdoor fireplace or chiminea falls in the category of “nuisance” due to the smoke and odor. Hence it is not allowed under the ALC Guidelines and CC&Rs.  Furthermore, such burning could certainly be in violation of Town and state regulations on open burning.  Please place yard waste in the trash can.

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