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.
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.
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.
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.
Prune mesquite and palo verde trees during summer. These trees heal more quickly during hot weather.
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.
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.
Heat-loving shrubs such as red bird of paradise, fairy duster, Texas ranger, palms, portulaca and perennial sunflowers can be planted now.
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.