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desert gardening basics
november 2012 gardening checklist for arizona’s low elevation
November 2012 Gardening Checklist for Arizona’s Low Elevation
November, 2012, Page 140
FOR THE LOW DESERT
WHAT TO PLANT
Buy bulbs for the holidays
—Boxed amaryllis bulbs can be purchased ready to grow with a pot, soil mix and instructions. Paperwhites are another easy-to-grow bulb that will bloom in time for the holidays. Pot a few paperwhite bulbs in small containers to set around the house, and you’ll never be far from their sweet scent. Succession planting every two weeks creates an extended bloom season.
—By mid-month, finish transplanting native or desert-adapted trees, shrubs, vines, groundcovers, ornamental grasses, perennials, cacti and succulents. No soil amendments are needed for most desert plants, which are well-adapted to native soil. If transplanting cacti or succulents into heavy water-retaining clay soil, improve drainage and inhibit root rot by incorporating about 25 percent sand, gravel or mulch to a depth of 2 feet.
—Attractive plants that work in the landscape or herb garden, offering pretty flowers, aroma and/or flavor, include chaparral sage (
), Jerusalem sage (
), Mexican bush sage (
) and Mexican tarragon (
—Overseeding with cool-season ryegrass is stressful to underlying Bermuda. Skipping a season of overseeding may improve the lawn’s overall vigor. If you choose to overseed, do so by mid-month.
—Finish sowing seeds by mid-month, in time to germinate with winter rains. Arizona bluebells, desert marigold, lupine and Parry’s penstemon germinate easily and self-sow readily if allowed to go to seed at the end of their spring bloom season.
—Continue sowing root crops and salad greens. Sow or transplant broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower. Get kids interested in eating their veggies by helping them plant those with unusual colors. Botanical Interests offers a variety of plant colors in single seed packets, such as Beet Gourmet Blend (deep red, golden yellow, and peppermint-striped); Carrot Calliope Blend (orange, purple, red, white, and yellow); Cauliflower Chef’s Choice Blend (green, purple, and white); and Kohlrabi Purple & White Blend. For a splash of neon green, plant heirloom ‘Broccoli Romanesco’, which has a nutty flavor. Find these and other unusual seed choices at Southwest Gardener in Phoenix (
—Sow seeds, or, for faster color, set out transplants of alyssum, bachelor’s button, bells of Ireland, black-eyed Susan, calendula, dianthus, geranium, hollyhock, Johnny-jump-up, larkspur, lobelia, marigold, nasturtium, ornamental kale, pansy, pincushion flower, poppy, snapdragon, stock, sweet pea and yarrow.
—Rake leaves to use as mulch or add to compost piles. Ask neighbors who fill plastic bags with leaves for trash pick-up if you can have them—don’t let this free organic source be sent to the landfill.
—Reduce irrigation frequency, because cool, wet soil promotes root rot. As a general guideline, water established desert-adapted plants every 14 to 30 days through December. New fall transplants usually require more frequent irrigation. Regardless of frequency, water should soak through the entire root system with each application.
Cathy Cromell is a Master Gardener and co-author of Earth-Friendly Desert Gardening (Arizona Master Gardener Press)
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