Garden Calendar: July 2020

Monsoon rains help quench the thirst of summer plants.

Tip of the Month

The common and sun-loving vinca (Catharanthus roseus) is the go-to plant for summer garden beds and borders. Also called Madagascar periwinkle, vinca additionally comes in new trailing varieties that work well in containers and hanging baskets. Colors include shades of red, pink, lavender, lilac, coral, peach, burgundy and white. These plants are admired for their large petals with bright contrasting centers and glossy, dark green foliage. Vincas are usually considered annuals and bloom from March through October. They reseed easily and no deadheading is required. Vincas grow in full sun to part shade and are heat, drought and disease tolerant. Plant 6-10 inches apart. They prefer regular water and a slightly acidic soil with good drainage. Avoid overhead watering and use of mulch to reduce fungal diseases.

Planting

Set out heat-tolerant seasonal color blooms such as cosmos, gaillardia, gazania, globe amaranth, lisianthus, periwinkle and zinnia.

Put in warm-season vegetables such as Armenian cucumbers, black-eyed peas, corn, tepary beans, gourds, melon, okra and summer squash.

Harvesting

Harvest basil often and prune at least 1/3 of the growth to ensure an early fall harvest. Use steel tongs to remove the juicy fruit from the prickly pear cacti.

Fertilizing

Feed blooming plants often during the wet season with high-phosphorous fertilizer. Fertilize palms during this rainy season.

Frequent irrigation leaches nutrients, so feed with a slow-release fertilizer.

Pruning

Prune mesquite and palo verde trees during summer. These trees heal more quickly during hot weather.

Watering

Water deeply early in the morning, when it’s not raining. Soak the entire root area of trees and shrubs weekly. Adjust your irrigation as needed through the monsoon season. Summer annuals in pots may dry out quickly, so check irrigation systems often.

Shading

Protect container plantings from intense reflected heat and sun. Non-native cacti and succulents prefer some shade. Use 50-75 percent shade cloth over peppers and tomatoes.

Transplanting

Heat-loving shrubs such as red bird of paradise, fairy duster, Texas ranger, palms, portulaca and perennial sunflowers can be planted now.

Preparing

Make use of the summer rains by harvesting the water.

Watch for insect infestation on plants. Heat- and drought-stressed plants are especially vulnerable to disease.

Watch for cochineal scale on prickly pear cacti and wash off any that appears.

Avoid standing water that might harbor mosquitoes.

Live help

Garden Calendar: June

Hot and dry … a challenge for our gardens.

Tip of the Month

Euphorbias are known to be the titans of texture, and are both elegant and tough. Heat and drought tolerance are their best attributes. This highly diverse group, often called “spurge,” comprises around five thousand species. They range from hardy, leafy perennials and sculptural succulents to tropical variations. Their blooms are tiny and distinctly un-flowery looking, arranged in distinctive patterns that are surrounded by colorful leaves called “bracts,” such as those in poinsettias. Most euphorbias have a milky sap that runs throughout the plant that is poisonous and a skin irritant. However, this toxic element has an added benefit — it acts as a deterrent, especially to hungry javelinas. Wear gloves when handling euphorbias or quickly wash the sap from your skin. To propagate, take cuttings from the parent plant. Rinse the sap with water to stop the flow. Let it dry several days to allow callus to form before planting.

Planting

Sow seeds of cantaloupe, corn, green beans, summer squash, native melons, Armenian cucumber and okra.

Plant warm-season color annuals such as cosmos, hollyhock, marigold, salvia, sunflower, zinnia, gaillardia, gomphrena, coreopsis, vinca and gazania.

Watering

Water turf efficiently by soaking 8-10 inches deep to moisten the Bermuda grass root zone. Bedding plants will need water more often this month.

Transplanting

Transplant herbs such as basil, marjoram, oregano, rosemary and thyme.

Plant desert-adapted plants this month. The roots readily expand in the heated soil.

Harvesting

The first fig crop starts ripening this month. Fruit matures only on the tree, so keep birds away by covering with netting.

Fertilizing

Feed cacti and succulents during the warm months. Apply a fertilizer formulated specifically for cacti and succulents every month.

Apply fertilizer twice monthly to vegetables. Do not add to dry soil.

Cut back on fertilizing roses to encourage plants to slow down for the summer.

Preparing

Apply pre-emergent to avoid weeds when the monsoons arrive.

Pruning

Prune back mature bougainvillea, lantana and hibiscus to stimulate blooms.

Cut back spring bloomers such as brittle bush, penstemon and salvia. Prune young trees early in the summer to slow growth and correct structure.

Protecting

Cover vegetables with 50-70 percent shade cloth to reduce temperatures, prevent sunscald and increase blossom set for better fruit production.

Cover citrus trunks to prevent sunburn damage.

Drape plants with netting or shade cloth to protect from birds and insects.

Garden Calendar | April

As the weather warms, we Tucsonans get busy in our gardens.

Tip of the Month

Vines add an interesting vertical element to your landscape. They can act as a divider, barrier or privacy screen. Climbing over an arbor, they also create shade. Vines have a wide variety of leaf shapes and textures. Many have bright flowers that add color and aroma — all these benefits without taking up much ground space! There are four main types: self-climbing (which attach to masonry, like creeping fig), non-climbing shrub vines (need support, such as bougainvillea), twining (stems twist for support, i.e., honeysuckle) and tendril-climbing (tendrils act as support, like passion flower). Vines are said to sleep the first year, creep the second year and leap the third year.

Clockwise from above: Passion Flower, Orange Trumpet, Honeysuckle, Bougainvillea, Creeping Fig.

Planting Plant color annuals such as pansies, petunias, larkspur and primrose. Plant warm-season flowering bulbs such as canna, dahlia, daylily and gladiolus.

Set out warm-season annuals such as cosmos, four o’clock, globe amaranth, gloriosa daisy, lisianthus, marigold, portulaca, vinca, zinnia, celosia, salvia, sunflower, gaillardia, beans, okra, cucumber, peanut, pumpkin, melon and squash.

Plant seedlings of pepper, tomatoes, squash, eggplant and green onion. Sow seeds for warm-season flowers such as hollyhock, salvia, sunflowers, tithonia and zinnia in garden beds.

Pruning

Look for new growth on native and desert-adapted plants.

Prune winter-damaged plant parts. Allow flower stalks on spring bulbs to brown and die back naturally. When spent, clip off at the base.

Fertilizing

Watch for iron deficiency on citrus, pyracantha, gardenia, nandina and bottlebrush. Look for yellow leaves with green veins, which signal gardeners to apply chelated iron according to package directions.

Always water before and after applying any fertilizer.

Feed Bermuda grass with high nitrogen fertilizer.

Feed roses every two weeks or use a slow-release fertilizer for longer season intervals during spring’s peak bloom.

Preparing

Reap flower seeds. Allow wildflowers and cool-season annual flowers to dry and scatter seed; or collect dry seed and store to sow next fall.

Watering

Adjust drip-irrigation systems to accommodate new plants and the warming temperatures.

Transplanting

Plant red bird of paradise, ageratum, eupatorium, passion vine, desert hackberry and datura to attract butterflies.

Plant container-grown roses. Plant new citrus and protect trunks from sunburn.

Plant desert landscape shrubs, cacti and succulents so that the roots reestablish before the summer heat.

 

Garden Calendar | March

It’s time to get your garden ready for the burst of spring growth.

Tip of the Month

The genus Helianthus includes the muchloved annual sunflower (Helianthus annuus), as well as several perennial species that make great, long-blooming garden plants.

The annual sunflower produces flowers that measure from 5 to 12 inches across. These bright beauties will grow well in the low desert. Seed can be sown or transplants set out anytime after early March. Another time to plant would be in early August. Once established, water deeply to encourage a strong root system for support. Good soil drainage is very important. Sunflowers need a minimum of six hours of sun daily. A light application of fertilizer can be used at planting and during the growing season. Sunflowers will bloom about 55-75 days after planting. They come in an array of sizes. Small varieties, such as “Teddy Bear” and “Music Box,” grow to just two to three feet tall, while “Mammoth” or “Russian Giant,” can reach heights of eight feet or more.

Planting

Plant color annuals after mid-month such as zinnia, periwinkle, globe amaranth, verbena and portulaca. Sow seeds for warm-season vegetables: okra, melon, squash, corn and cucumbers. Plant desert-adapted trees, shrubs, vines, ground covers, cacti and succulents. Plant container-grown roses and citrus.

Watering

As temps warm, adjust irrigation systems for new plants. Water citrus every 10-14 days. Watch container plantings for drying out in March winds.

Fertilizing

Apply nitrogen to fruit trees when buds begin to swell. Add compost and well-composted manure to vegetable beds. Give established plants a dose of balanced organic fertilizer. Fertilize roses every six weeks to prepare for spring bloom. Fertilize established fig trees now.

Transplanting

Transplant tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and globe artichokes. Propagate from existing succulent cuttings. Divide and plant agave, yucca and aloe offshoots. Set out strawberries, which grow best in raised beds to help prevent salt accumulation. Transplant basil, chamomile, chives, epazote, feverfew, lavender, oregano, lemon grass, rosemary, sage and santolina.

Pruning

Deadhead the winter annuals. Prune frost-damaged foliage from bougainvillea, dalea, hibiscus, lantana, oleander and other shrubs. Prune perennial herbs by one-third after mid-March. Prune Texas Ranger, red bird of paradise, mountain marigold and chuparosa to encourage new growth. Cut back ornamental grasses. Remove side-buds on hybrid roses and center buds on floribundas to promote larger flowers.

Live help

Garden Calendar | February

It’s time to get your garden ready for the burst of spring growth.

Tip of the Month

The secret to producing good tomatoes and peppers in the desert is to get them planted early. Set out six-inch transplants of peppers and tomatoes between mid-February and mid- March. Cover plants if late frost is predicted. Early planting encourages fruit set. This occurs when night temperatures are above 55 degrees and daytime temperatures do not exceed 90 degrees. After 90 degrees, pollen is no longer viable and fruit set stops. Choose varieties that produce fruit in less than 70 days. Cherry tomato varieties and Early Girl are good examples of short-season cultivars. Peppers and tomatoes are heavy feeders, so add organic food monthly. Water deeply every three to four days, and add mulch to retain soil moisture. Grow basil next to peppers and tomatoes to help to repel garden pests.

Planting

Plant color annuals such as pansies, petunias, larkspur, primrose, poppy, stock, violas, alyssum, snapdragon and marigolds. Plant native or desert-adapted plants such as desert marigold, penstemon, sage and evening primrose, which are hardy enough to withstand the cold nights but benefit from extra time in the ground to establish roots. Start a new crop of cool-season vegetables, such as root vegetables, peas, leafy greens, kale and bunching onions.

Fertilizing

Fertilize citrus, lawns, grapes and deciduous trees. Citrus fertilizers are formulated especially to provide a source of nitrogen. Fertilize roses with a slow-release fertilizer containing nitrogen and phosphorous around mid-month to encourage blooms by April. Fertilize non-native plants just as they begin active growth. Wait to fertilize tender tropicals until danger of frost is over. Natives generally do not need fertilizer.

Transplanting

Tomatoes must be transplanted early enough to develop roots, flower and set fruit before hot weather arrives. Plant mid-month but watch for frost and cover for protection until mid-March.

Watering

Water citrus deeply every three weeks. Watch shallow-rooted newly planted annuals, which can quickly dry out with spring winds. Adjust watering schedule according to winter rains.

Harvesting

Continue to harvest citrus. However, Valencia oranges are just starting to sweeten and grapefruit continues to sweeten for several months.

Pruning

Wait until new shoots emerge on frost-damaged plants. Cut back ornamental grasses.

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