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.

Plant

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

Protect

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

Prune

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.

Water

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.

Transplant

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

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.

Harvest

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

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October

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.

PLANT

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

WATER

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

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.

PRUNE

Remove the last of the warmseason flowering plants.

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

TRANSPLANT

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.

TIP OF THE MONTH

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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