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April 2013 Gardening Checklist for Arizona’s Low Elevation

Author: Cathy Cromell
Issue: April, 2013, Page 116
Kumquat tree



ARIZONA’s LOW DESERT

Plant a tree for Arbor Day! Trees increase home values, improve air quality, provide shade, lower surrounding temperatures, attract wildlife, stymie strong winds and lower utility costs. To eliminate unnecessary maintenance and pruning in the years ahead, select species that will stay within bounds as they mature, both vertically and horizontally. Be careful to avoid overhead utility wires and neighboring rooflines.

WHAT TO PLANT
Small trees—Smaller stature trees for narrow spaces include little leaf ash (Fraxinus greggii), mulga (Acacia aneura), palo blanco (A. willardiana) and shoestring acacia (A. stenophylla).
Trees for wildlife—Songbirds: desert hackberry (Celtis pallida); butterflies: kidneywood (Eysenhardtia orthocarpa); hummingbirds: desert willow (Chilopsis linearis).
Citrus trees—If space allows for more than one tree, choose varieties that ripen at different times to extend your harvest season. If space allows for only one tree or a container-grown citrus, consider a variety that bears fruit almost year-round, such as ‘Kieffer’ (also ‘Kaffir’) lime or any kumquat.
Large shrubs—Tiny yards or limited space may be better suited to a large shrub than a small tree. Shrubs that can be shaped as small trees include Arizona rosewood (Vauquelinia californica), sugar bush (Rhus ovata), Texas mountain laurel (Sophora secundiflora) and Texas olive (Cordia boissieri).
Desert-adapted landscape plants—Finish transplanting groundcovers, vines, perennials, ornamental grasses, cacti and other succulents as early in the month as possible to help roots establish before summer.
Basil—Sow seeds or set out transplants.
Veggies—Sow seeds for warm-season lima, snap and yard long beans, plus black-eyed peas, cantaloupe, cucumbers, okra, peanuts and squash. Transplant sweet potatoes. There is still time to sow a quick-maturing crop of cool-season carrots, green onions and radishes.

GARDEN MAINTENANCE
Clean up freeze damage—After your area’s last frost date, it is safe to trim blackened leaves. Prune back damaged stems to the first new buds or green foliage that appear.
Tend tomatoes—Maintain consistently moist soil to reduce the possibility of blossom end rot, a calcium deficiency that appears as brown rotten spots on the fruit’s blossom end. Infrequent watering causes calcium in the dry soil to “go out of solution” and is thus not available for the roots to absorb. Water slowly and deeply to a depth of 12 inches and layer organic mulch or straw on top of the soil to help maintain moisture. 
Feed citrus—Fertilize trees with their second feeding of the year this month or next. Apply one-third of the tree’s total annual nitrogen requirement. Water deeply after spreading fertilizer.


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