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For The Garden

May 2013 Gardening Checklist for Arizona’s Low Elevation

Author: Cathy Cromell
Issue: May, 2013, Page 116


Veggies—Sow warm-season Armenian cucumbers, black-eyed peas, cantaloupe, okra and yard long beans. Transplant sweet potatoes.

Double-duty flowers—Sow seeds for warm-season annuals that provide nectar for butterflies and cutting flowers for bouquets. Try coreopsis, gaillardia, Mexican sunflower, sunflower and zinnia.

Landscape plants—Finish transplanting early in the month to help roots establish before triple digits hit.

Year-round hummingbird garden—Make a list of your existing plants and when they flower. Add trees, shrubs, perennials, succulents and wildflowers that bloom in different seasons or offer lengthy bloom periods to provide nectar sources.

Hummers regularly visit aloe, flowering winter to spring; Baja red fairy duster (Calliandra californica), almost year-round if frost-free; chuparosa (Justicia californica), late winter to spring; desert willow (Chilopsis linearis), spring to fall; flame honeysuckle (Anisacanthus quadrifidus v. wrightii), summer to late fall; hummingbird trumpet (Zauschneria arizonica and Z. californica ‘Ghostly Red’), summer to fall; Mexican, red, and yellow bird of paradise (Caesalpinia mexicana, C. pulcherrima, C. gilliesii), spring to fall; red emu bush (Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine’), late winter to spring; and orange bells (Tecoma hybrid); year-round if frost-free. If space is limited, add a few Penstemon parryi. This fuchsia-flowering spring bloomer is irresistible to hummers and humans.

Examine irrigation systems—Turn on your system manually and look for leaks. Replace any clogged emitters or broken sprinkler heads. If you have lawn sprinklers, make sure the water spray reaches all areas equally to prevent dead or soggy areas. A simple way to test this is to place tuna or pet food cans on the lawn. After running the sprinklers, the water levels in all cans should be the same.

Feed citrus—If you did not do so last month, fertilize trees with their second feeding of the year. Apply one-third of a tree’s total annual nitrogen requirement.

Refresh mulch—Before the heat hits, spread several inches of mulch on top of garden beds and around landscape plants. Mulch reduces soil temperatures, maintains soil moisture and inhibits weeds. Organic mulches, such as compost or bark chips, add nutrients to the soil as they decompose over time. Keep mulch several inches away from the stems and trunks of plants. Wet mulch touching plant tissue may encourage pest and disease problems.

Watch for butterflies—Graceful black-and-yellow swallowtail butterflies may be swooping around your citrus trees, which are their preferred host plants for laying eggs. When the caterpillars hatch, the foliage provides a ready source of food, and their munching won’t harm the tree. Called orange dog caterpillars, these creatures resemble brown, gray and white bird droppings, a successful camouflage against birds. Take your kids or grandkids on a “bird poop” hunt!

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