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Monsoon rains help quench the thirst of summer plants.

Tip of the Month

When the “monsoon” season arrives, it brings moist southerly winds to our hot, dry environment, resulting in thunderstorm activity.

Typically, these storms bring most of our annual rainfall, from June through September. When the rain starts, temperatures drop suddenly and the air freshens with the scent of damp desert sage and creosote. During this time, one might see a pluvial parade of wildlife curiosities. Reptiles, insects, arachnids and amphibians emerge from their underground lairs to eat, hunt, and cruise for a mate. Palo Verde beetles look harmful — and they do have a nasty pinch if you try to pick them up — but only dine on the tasty roots of the desert’s signature tree. Many amphibians find the newly formed rain puddles to their liking and sound out with a cacophony of songs, calling for a mate. Even a rare sighting of a Gila Monster happens at this time of year as he ventures out of his rocky den. Male tarantulas often are spotted out and about in search of a female.

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.