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October 2012 Gardening Checklist for Arizona’s Low Elevation

Author: Cathy Cromell
Issue: October, 2012, Page 106
Photo by Richard Maack

Maximilian sunflower


Low-desert gardeners: Take a pass on landscape maintenance chores this month and simply enjoy the fall planting frenzy. Extreme temperatures are starting to abate (we hope), although the soil is still warm enough to encourage seed germination and root development. Our long seven- to eight-month cool-growing season allows landscape plants to establish strong root systems before the return of summer.

Garlic—“Hardneck” varieties send up distinctive seed stalks called “scapes” that hold small edible bulblets; “softneck” varieties do not. Softneck garlic is good for decorative braiding and typically requires less cold weather to form bulbs, so it is more commonly grown in warm climates. Softneck also stays fresh longer in storage than hardneck garlic, but either will grow in the Phoenix area. In loose, well-drained soil amended with plenty of compost or other organic matter, plant individual cloves 4 to 6 inches deep and 4 to 6 inches apart in full sun. The pointed end should face up. If you have heavy, poor-draining clay soil, plant garlic in pots or raised beds to prevent rot; or try ‘Red Rezan’, a hardneck variety that tolerates soil moisture better than most varieties. ‘Thermadrone’ is a French softneck variety with intense flavor and can be stored up to nine months. Order USDA-certified organic garlic from

Herbs—Sow anise, borage, caraway, chamomile, chervil, chicory, chive, cilantro, dill, fennel, horehound, lemon balm, parsley, salad burnet and sorrel. Transplant bay tree, comfrey, curry, feverfew, germander, lavender, lemon grass, lemon verbena, marjoram, oregano, mint, rosemary, rue, sage, santolina, society garlic, scented geranium and thyme.

Cool-season veggies—Sow peas, root crops and salad greens. Sow or transplant broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower.

Wildflowers—In full sun, rake bare ground no more than 1/16 of an inch deep (so as not to stir up weed seeds), scatter seeds, press them into the soil with the back of the rake, and cover with no more than 1/16 inch soil. No soil amendment is needed. Or simply scatter seeds over gravel mulch. Keep the planting area moist until germination. After seedlings reach about 2 inches high, and if winter rains are sufficient, gradually taper off watering.

Milkweeds for monarchs—Plant milkweeds from the Asclepias genus, and monarchs will flutter to your garden in droves to lay eggs during their semiannual migrations. Transplant desert milkweed (Asclepias subulata), narrowleaf or Arizona milkweed (A. angustifolia), pineleaf milkweed (A. linaria), or tropical milkweed/bloodflower (A. curassavica). The latter requires afternoon shade and cold-protection.

Landscape plants—Transplant native or desert-adapted trees, shrubs, vines, groundcovers, ornamental grasses, perennials, cacti and succulents.

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