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For The Garden

September 2012 Gardening Checklist for Arizona’s Low Elevation

Author: Cathy Cromell
Issue: September, 2012, Page 116


Landscape plants and cool-season vegetables, flowers and herbs—October is the preferred month in the low desert for fall planting, although you can begin doing so in September. Monitor carefully for water stress if temperatures remain high.

Buy wildflower seeds for planting in October—Seed mixes should contain species appropriate for the Sonoran Desert, such as blackfoot daisy, blue or scarlet flax, desert bluebells, desert marigold, fleabane, gaillardia, lupine, Mexican gold poppy, owl’s clover, penstemon and tidy tips.

Weed—Pull weeds that sprouted after summer monsoons. Weeds compete with garden plants for moisture, nutrients and sunlight, and also harbor pests such as beet leafhoppers, which transmit curly top virus to tomatoes and other vegetables.

Prepare garden soil—Till or loosen soil to a depth of 12 to 18 inches to enhance drainage and root development. Incorporate 4 to 6 inches of compost to a depth of 10 to 12 inches. Compost supports beneficial soil microorganisms and earthworms, which build healthy, rich soil over time. Compost also helps sandy soil retain moisture, improves drainage in clay soil, adds nutrients, and enhances the soil’s structure and “workability,” or tilth.

Add soil sulfur according to package instructions. This amendment reduces sodium accumulation in the soil, thus improving soil structure and drainage. Water the bed slowly and deeply to leach salts and to sprout weed seeds that were brought to the surface by digging. Pull weeds and toss in the compost pile. Before planting, incorporate nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers.

Another low-labor option to develop garden soil is to “sheet compost”—spread thick layers of organic matter (newspaper, leaves, grass clippings, compost, aged manure, straw) on top of the soil. Continue this practice each season, and as the material decomposes, your soil layer increases. Alternatively, if your ground is too hard to work, build raised beds at least 12 to 18 inches high.

Trim roses—Around mid-month, lightly prune hybrid roses to prepare them for fall bloom. Prune dead or damaged canes or weak spindly top growth, but remove no more than one-third of the plant. Apply a slow-release fertilizer.

Stop feeding grass—If you plan to overseed lawns with ryegrass in October, stop fertilizing warm-season Bermuda lawns four to six weeks prior. If you don’t overseed, continue fertilizing monthly.

Feed citrus—If you did not do so in August, fertilize with one-third of the tree’s annual nitrogen requirement.
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