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For The Garden

December 2012 Gardening Checklist for Arizona’s Mid and High Elevations

Author: Cathy Cromell
Issue: December, 2012, Page 103


(Mid Elevations) 
Cool season annuals—Transplant a container with your favorite mix of bachelor’s button, candytuft, calendula, dianthus, dusty miller, forget-me-not, Johnny-jump-up, Iceland poppy, larkspur, ornamental kale, pansy, stock or viola. Use a lightweight soil mix formulated for containers. Incorporate a complete fertilizer containing nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Place the container in a sunny location, and be prepared to cover if frost is predicted.

(Mid and High Elevations)  
Live Christmas trees—If buying a live tree to transplant in the landscape after the holiday season, first determine that the species thrives in your region and that its mature height and width will fit its intended landscape area without unnecessary pruning to keep it in bounds. Another option is to transplant the tree in a large container, grow it outdoors most of the year, then bring it indoors during the holidays. Suitable species for mid-elevations include Arizona cypress, Leyland cypress, atlas cedar, deodar cedar, piñon pine and scotch pine. High-elevation choices include Colorado blue spruce, Douglas fir and Southwestern white pine.

(Mid Elevations) 
Spread organic matter and fresh mulch—Layer 4 to 6 inches of manure or compost on fallow garden beds to decompose before spring. As needed, add 3 to 4 inches of mulch to bulb and perennial beds.

(High Elevations)
Apply protective winter mulch—Mulch insulates the soil and prevents frost heave, in which freezing and thawing cycles lift roots out of the ground. Mulch also helps plants maintain dormancy during intermittent warm spells. As soon as the ground freezes, spread 6 to 8 inches of organic mulch (dried leaves, pine needles, bark chips, compost, straw) around shrubs and trees. For groundcovers and perennials, spread a loose layer of mulch consisting of dry leaves and/or pine needles that won’t become soggy and compress, thereby causing plants to rot.

(Mid and High Elevations) 
Maintain cut evergreen Christmas trees—See For the Low Desert.

Wait to cut back perennials—Many gardeners trim perennials before winter, but allowing stems to remain provides energy reserves for the roots to draw upon. Also, butterflies and other beneficial insects lay eggs on perennials. Wait to prune until new growth appears.

Cathy Cromell is a Master Gardener and co-author of  Earth-Friendly Desert Gardening (Arizona Master Gardener Press)
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