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desert gardening basics
march 2013 gardening checklist for arizona’s low elevation
March 2013 Gardening Checklist for Arizona’s Low Elevation
March, 2013, Page 142
Photo by Richard Maack
ARIZONA’s LOW DESERT
WHAT TO PLANT
Desert-adapted landscape plants
—Trees, shrubs, groundcovers, vines, perennials, cacti and other succulents.
Milkweeds and flowers for monarchs
.) are sure-fire attractants for your butterfly garden because monarchs lay their eggs on these plants to serve as food for hatching caterpillars. Transplant
A. angustifolia, A. curassavica, A. linaria and A. subulata
. Sow seeds for nectar sources for adults, including blanket flower, coreopsis, cosmos, Mexican sunflower (tithonia), sunflower and zinnia.
—Transplant artichokes, eggplant, peppers and tomatoes. Protect them if late frosts are predicted. Sow seeds for lima and snap beans, corn, cucumber, jicama, melons and squash.
—Sow quick-maturing crops of beets, carrots, green onions or radishes to harvest before summer heat.
—Select dwarf or semi-dwarf varieties for limited space or pots.
—Transplant basil, chives, marjoram, oregano, parsley and sage.
—In addition to peppermint and spearmint, try apple, chocolate, orange and pineapple mint plants. Taste-test a leaf before buying. Mint plants spread invasively by runners. Control mint spread by cutting off the bottom of a 5-gallon plastic pot (to enhance drainage) and sinking it up to the rim in your herb bed. Fill it with soil and plant the mint. The sides of the pot inhibit the mint’s spread.
—Transplant container-grown Modern and Old Garden (heritage) roses. Star struck? Consider a rose garden planted with ‘Barbra Streisand’ (mauve hybrid tea); ‘Chris Evert’ (orange hybrid tea); ‘Julia Child’ (yellow floribunda); ‘Marilyn Monroe’ (apricot hybrid tea); and ‘Queen Elizabeth’ (pink grandiflora).
—At least four times a year, adjust irrigation schedules. Regardless of the season, water should soak the same depth through the soil to the root zone; it is the frequency of application that changes. Chandler Water Conservation offers a chart with landscape watering guidelines at
—Apply a slow-release fertilizer every six weeks to enhance the major bloom season in April and May.
—Examine plants for aphids, tiny soft-bodied insects that cluster on fresh, tender growth to suck plant sap. Aphids may be green, grayish-black or neon yellow. Control their population by periodically hosing them off with water. Another option is to leave them alone, as aphids attract green lacewings and ladybeetles. In their larval stage, both consume aphids with efficient gusto, and as long as there is “food,” they will stay in your landscape and control other pests. Pretty and delicate in appearance, lacewings and ladybeetles are beneficial predators that help maintain your garden’s balanced ecosystem without chemical pesticides, which is a component of Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Learn more at University of California’s IPM Online at
Cathy Cromell is a Master Gardener and co-author of Earth-Friendly Desert Gardening (Arizona Master Gardener Press).
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