About Joel D. Valdez Main Library - Landscaping

Includes Bottle trees, Argentine mesquite, and Live oak. The plants in the front planters are Texas Mountain Laurel (Sophora Fig) along with vegetation introduced through the Plaza Planter Project. Many of the plants at the Joel D. Valdez Main Library are listed on the Arizona Department of Water Resources approved plant list. They were also approved by the Mayor and Council.

The Plaza Planter Project

Visitors to the Joel D. Valdez Main Library may notice the 17 large planters located at the entrance to the library. During the summer of 2013, the Library offered Tucson residents and organizations the opportunity to adopt a planter in Jácome Plaza outside the library and transform this public space into a unique community garden that everyone can enjoy.

Librarians working with the Seed Library (SL) spearheaded the project. We saw it as a chance for the Pima County Public Library to:

  • Engage the community
  • Beautify Jácome Plaza and make the entrance to Joel D. Valdez Main Library more welcoming
  • Promote PCPL's Seed Library and explain how it works
  • Share the stories of seeds, seed savers, and the process of seed saving
  • Highlight the amazing and abundant community resources and support network available to new and long-time gardeners: The Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, Tucson Cactus & Succulent Society, Compost Cats, Tucson Organic Gardeners, Native Seeds/SEARCH, Community Gardens of Tucson, Arbico Organics, Master Gardeners, Gardeners of Tucson, Tucson Herbalists' Collective, and others.

Planning the Project

We consulted with many organizations and government entities during the planning of the Plaza Planter Project.

In addition to meeting with the Tucson Organic Gardeners and the Downtown Tucson Partnership to discuss the health and needs of the soil and the Texas Mountain Laurel (Sophora Fig) trees already in the planters, we contacted gardening programs such as the Tucson Cactus and Succulent Society and Native Seeds/ SEARCH and other community groups to serve as mentors to new gardeners interested in adopting a planter.

These community groups spread the word about the project, engaged potential volunteers, donated plants and materials, and provided help on Big Dig day.

Our Seed Librarians met with the Pima County Health Department, Pima County Sustainability, Pima County Wellness, as well as the City of Tucson's Urban Landscape Management Planner to discuss how to engage city and county employees.

We found mentor groups and volunteers for nearly all 17 planters during a series of planter adoption and design workshops held at the Joel D. Valdez Main Library throughout the summer of 2013.

On September 14, 2013, we held a meet and greet for all the volunteers and mentor groups to come together and finalize their plans for the planters. Mentor groups included Aravaipa Heirlooms, Arizona Native Plant Society, Café Desta, the Community Food Bank, Gardeners of Tucson, Pio Decimo, and Sleeping Frog Farms. Volunteers included community members and individuals from City High School, The Tucson Observer, Pima Association of Governments, Pima County Sustainability, and Wells Fargo.

The Big Dig

The Big Dig was held on September 28, 2013, in conjunction with the Joel D. Valdez Main Library's DIY Day, where visitors participated in various free classes taught by Tucson's own experts on everything from how to change a flat tire to making yogurt. Planter volunteers and mentor groups worked outside from 7 am to 11 am that day.

Care and Watering

City of Tucson Parks and Recreation and Downtown Tucson Partnership water the planters once a week. Volunteers who adopted a planter water and weed their planters as needed. Library staff members have also enjoyed going outside to take care of the planters when needed.

Moving Forward

The Pima County Public Library hosts classes and demonstrations on gardening in the Southwest, sustainable gardening, designing a garden, container gardening, companion planting, utilizing native plants, seed saving, of course, and many more. As the seasons change and volunteer opportunities open up, we will host additional informational workshops to engage community members who would like to get involved.

Thanks to our many resources and support networks for helping to make the Plaza Planter Project possible:
The Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, Tucson Cactus & Succulent Society, Compost Cats, Tucson Organic Gardeners, Native Seeds/SEARCH, Community Gardens of Tucson, Arbico Organics, Master Gardeners, Gardeners of Tucson, Tucson Herbalists' Collective, and others.

Pima County Website