Garden Calendar | January

A quiet and chilly month for Tucson gardens.


Tip of the Month

To attract birds to your garden, be sure to provide for their basic needs: food, water and shelter. Add native plants that provide food for many bird species. Birds are attracted to water for drinking and bathing. Provide a small water container or fountain with a circulating waterfall. In addition to providing plants for protection, birds also need nesting sites. Small trees and shrubs work best.

There’s one more reason for attracting birds to your garden: pest control. Garden pests usually are at their peak in late spring and early summer, when birds are busy foraging for whiteflies, aphids, earwigs, grasshoppers, beetles and grubs!

If you have bird feeders, don’t put them away once warm weather arrives. Even birds that spend most of their time eating insects enjoy an occasional snack. Fill your feeder with a quality seed blend that will appeal to finches, grosbeaks, cardinals and sparrows.


Sow seeds of beets, bok choy, carrots, lettuce, radishes, spinach and Swiss chard. Start seeds of peppers, eggplant and tomatoes indoors.


Cover frost-tender plants with burlap, sheets or frost cloth.


Prune roses by removing dead and crossing canes. Leave five or six canes, cutting them to 18 inches.

Dab ends with wood glue to discourage insects.

Trim non-native deciduous shade trees. Wait to prune native trees and shrubs after they bloom.

Prune citrus only to remove dead wood, crossed branches, suckers rising from below the graft point and vertical sprouts from the top of the tree.


If winter rains are sparse, water trees and shrubs every two or three weeks.

Do not water succulents if forecast calls for a freeze.

Water fall-planted wildflower seeds if there is little rainfall.


Set out transplants of sweet alyssum, candy tuft, baby’s breath, daisy, bacopa, bachelor’s button, pansy, calendula, snapdragon, wallflower, nasturtium, ornamental kale, Iceland poppy and stock.

Set out winter vegetables such as Brussel sprouts, cabbage, kale, Chinese cabbage and cauliflower.


Fertilize bearded iris toward the end of the month, then water thoroughly.

Fertilize citrus in January or February. Use one-third of the total nitrogen requirement.

Scatter granular fertilizer along the canopy and water deeply.

Do not feed dormant Bermuda grass.


Continue citrus harvest of grapefruits, mandarins, tangelos, lemons, kumquats, navels and blood oranges.

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Goes With the Territorial

Keeping what was good, and updating what was outdated, was the mission of this makeover.

Romi Carrell Wittman

The late 1970s — the era of shag carpet, laminate countertops, and avocado green appliances — saw a boom in territorial revival homes. An architectural style born in the desert Southwest during the 1930s, territorial revival is known for its blend of Anglo- American building design with regional influences like adobe brick construction, low, flat roofs, wooden vigas, and sash windows. You can spot these beautiful and distinctive homes throughout Tucson by their iconic rectangular shape with stucco or adobe brick façades.

Michelle Carnes, ASID, vice president and senior designer with Dorado Designs, a Tucson-based design-build firm, was called upon to bring one of these 1970s gems up to date. The 3,600-square-foot, three-bedroom, three-bath home, located near the Omni Tucson National Resort, had what designers call “good bones,” but it needed freshening up.

Although the homeowners wanted to modernize, they didn’t want to lose the home’s architectural flavor or character. “We talked in quite a bit of detail,” Carnes says. “They wanted a modern twist and an airy feel. We termed the design ‘modern territorial.’”

Like many homes of that era, the interior was dark and closed off. Though the home boasted several skylights and many expansive windows, the dark saltillo tile flooring and exposed brick seemed to absorb all the light.

Carnes’ design retained the original footprint of the home, but opened up some of the interior spaces to create a great room, giving the home a better flow.

One large room originally was divided into two areas, with one serving as a dining room, which was too far from the kitchen to be truly functional. Carnes had the dividing wall removed, exposing a hidden beamed ceiling, and turning the room into an open living room. It became the perfect location for the homeowners’ piano. “Cubby holes” made an ideal spot for books and items from their art collection.

Carnes revamped the kitchen so it is modern, comfortable and functional. The clients love open shelving, but wanted it to tie in with the overall style of the home. Carnes chose cabinetry in three different finishes to provide visual interest. White textured bead board creates a simple, but dramatic contrast both in the built-in hutch and the open shelving.

As Carnes points out, combining different textures and finishes in the kitchen while utilizing modern and traditional lines instills character in a typical functional space. “Several different focal points, from the island drawer detail, to the built-in custom hutch, to the rustic beam above the sink, help the space to seem comfortable and well thought out.”



The kitchen island presented a fun challenge for Carnes. She designed it so it’s intentionally off-center, thus making room for better traffic flow in the kitchen. “I needed to find a way to make it look centered even though it’s asymmetrical.” The solution presented itself in the form of the starburst light fixture that hangs over the island. “The starburst is centered on the sink, so your eye can ‘find the center,’” she explains.

Carnes tore out the home’s existing flooring, which was a mélange of saltillo tile, carpet and ceramic tile, and replaced it with poured concrete that’s consistent throughout the home.

Next she painted the exposed brick to brighten the interior. New exterior doors and windows were selected to continue the modern upgrades. “We updated everything down to the switch plates and only kept the master tub and door handles,” Carnes says. Last, but not least, she sourced new furnishings and artwork for the home.

That attention to detail extends to the backyard as well. The previous patio was too short and let in too much sun and heat to be functional. Carnes extended the patio, constructed a large fire pit and created comfortable seating and dining areas.


The driveway got a makeover with brick pavers; new garage doors were installed, and the front door was refurbished to maintain a consistent style with the home.

All in all, from the design phase to completion, the project took about seven months. The homeowners had traveled to Colorado during the construction phase and hadn’t seen the home as the project progressed.

“They didn’t come back once to check in,” Carnes notes. “They trusted us.”

The homeowners saw their “new” home for the first time when they stopped by during the final touch-up phase. “We were all there, and it was like an HGTV reveal,” Carnes says. “Every time the homeowner turned the corner, she kept saying, ‘Wow!’ She and her husband couldn’t believe it was the same house.”

Carnes enjoyed the clients and the project from beginning to end. “I do my best work when the clients trust me. I get to hone in on my intuition while staying in tune with their personal integrity, and create something that is thoughtful and original,” she concludes. “On this project, I was allowed that freedom and I put my heart and soul into it.”

Carnes revamped the kitchen so it is modern, comfortable and functional. The clients love open shelving, but wanted it to tie in with the overall style of the home.

Natural light, and the sleek vanity, shower and soaking tub add to this master bath’s luxurious feel.

A bold-tiled barbecue and area rug in slate blue, along with textured furniture, concrete flooring and a fire feature, make this outdoor area a well-thought out extension of the home’s living space.


Michelle Carnes, ASID, Dorado Designs,

The Pros Who Know: Citrus State of Mind

The Pros Who Know: Citrus State of Mind

Desert Treasures Citrus Groves has been a Tucson treasure since 1947, when local residents could purchase fresh citrus and dates directly from the original 25-acre parcel located along Orange Grove Road. The property experienced a renaissance when it was purchased by Peter Larsen in 1972. He sold his products to local residents and wholesale customers.


The family tradition has continued through the second and third generations — son-in-law Chris Duggan and grandson Liam Duggan. More than 30 varieties of citrus and, more recently, dates are grown on the remaining ten acres and are offered seasonally at local farmers markets.

Tips & Trends

• White Marsh grapefruit is most prolific and available through most of the year, as they stay on the tree throughout the year, their sweetness improves over time. The Ruby Red grapefruit is prized for its dark pink flesh.

• Blood oranges, such as Sanguinelli, Moro and Tarocco, are the most requested orange, known for their deep red skin and flesh.

• Unusual hybrids have been developed, such as Mineola tangelos, Temple and Ortanique tangors that are prized for their juice content and tangy flavor.

• Mandarins are very popular. Dancy, Gold Nuggets, Murcotts, Kinnows, Honey, Fairchild and Daisy can be found early in the season.

• Unique and specialty citrus varieties, which are difficult to find in grocery store, include kumquats, limequats, mandarinquats, cocktail grapefruit, and pomelos.

• Navel oranges are sweet and seedless favorites that arrive early on the market. Cara Cara is a sought-after pink hybrid navel.

• Arizona Sweets and Diller Oranges are the most popular.



Oro Valley Farmers Market and Rillito Park Farmers Market,


November 2019

Prepare gardens for the cooler temperatures of winter.



Plant winter color annuals such as cyclamen, primrose, pansies, violas, lobelia, snapdragon, petunia, gazania, nasturtium and sweet pea.


Sow seeds for beets, bok choy, bulb and green onions, collards, endive, kale, leaf lettuce, leeks, mustard greens, peas, radishes and spinach. Plant colorful perennials such as angelita daisy, gaura, hummingbird trumpet sage and Mount Lemmon marigold.

Sow wildflower seeds by mid-month to take advantage of winter rains. Choose a location that receives full sun in winter.


Continue transplanting desert adapted trees and shrubs, ground covers, vines, cacti, succulents and grasses.

Transplant culinary herbs such as cilantro, dill, fennel, parsley, marjoram, mint, chives, rosemary, catnip, oregano, society garlic and sorrel. Also, transplant broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and chard.

Set out rain lily bulbs now. Plant them under trees or among rocks.


Move tender potted plants to sunnier locations or in protected spots under porches, eaves or tree canopies. Don’t water cacti and succulents before frosts.

Place polystyrene cups over the tops of columnar cacti.

Drape small trees with frost cloth; wrap young citrus trunks with burlap.


Adjust automatic irrigation timers to reduce water.

Irrigate citrus trees about every three weeks to a depth of three feet. As weather cools, less water helps prepare plants for dormancy.


The first of the winter vegetables will include radishes, spinach, arugula and leaf lettuce.

Test citrus to determine ripeness. Tangerines ripen first, followed by navel oranges, tangelos, lemons and limes.



No outdoor plant is guaranteed to be safe from rabbits — they will eat almost anything except poisonous ones, especially during a drought. But desert-adapted specimens tend to be less palatable to them, including brittlebush, lantana, euphorbia, salvia, rosemary, vinca, yellow bells, penstemon and Mexican Bird of Paradise, which often are found in local gardens.

Rabbits prefer plants that are over-watered or over-fertilized. New transplants from the nursery are very tender, and therefore attractive to them, so they may need temporary protection for 4-6 months until they toughen up a bit. Barricading strategies such as encircling young plants with chicken wire may help. Bury the wire 4-6 inches to deter them from burrowing. Invisible shields or rabbit repellants in spray and powder forms also are available at nurseries.

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October Garden Calendar


This month is the perfect time for planting in the low desert. It’s cool enough now to set out those seasonal flowers and vegetables that love our fall and winter months.


Sow seeds of root crops such as beets, carrots, turnips, onions, salad greens and peas.


Rainfall helps out with irrigation this month. However, don’t rely on it with new plants.

Water citrus deeply to the tree canopy every two weeks or so.

Ease your plants into cooler weather by watering thoroughly and then gradually lengthening the time between waterings.


Prepare beds for bulbs such as ranunculus, iris, anemone, freesia, tritonia, rain lily, amaryllis, crocosmia and spider lily with rich organic soil and well-decomposed compost.

Mix phosphorus fertilizer (which promotes blooming) into the bottom of the planting hole.

Over-seed Bermuda lawns with rye grass between mid-October and mid-November.

Provide at least six to eight hours of full sun daily for vegetables to be most productive.

Repel garden pests by planting herbs such as oregano, rosemary, sage, parsley, thyme and lavender. Their aromatic oils deter most insects.


Remove the last of the warmseason flowering plants.

Divide your clumping perennials such as day lilies and Shasta daisies.


Put in cool-season color annuals such as petunias, stock, snapdragons, dianthus, lobelia, poppies and alyssum.

Set out transplants from the cabbage family.

Plant desert-adapted trees, shrubs, vines, ground covers, ornamental grasses, and cacti and other succulents.


Flowers are a plant’s way of attracting pollinators. Gardeners appreciate their bright blooms as well, and cooks have discovered that a small number of these beauties are edible, providing a different sensory appreciation.

But not all flowers are edible, so do not experiment! And common sense dictates that you avoid eating even safe varieties if they were ever sprayed with insecticide.

The most popular edible varieties include the blooms of chives, leeks, garlic, nasturtium, tiny marigold, pansy, viola, Johnny Jump Up, calendula, anise hyssop, lemon and bee balm, scarlet runner bean, borage, chamomile, mint and squash blossom.

Brighten up a cheese plate with a few pansies, freeze Johnny Jump Ups to adorn ice cubes, sprinkle chive blossoms on a cream cheese bagel, decorate cakes with calendula petals or add nasturtium blooms on salad. Flowers taste best right after they have opened.

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