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desert gardening basics
june 2013 gardening checklist for arizona’s low elevation
June 2013 Gardening Checklist for Arizona’s Low Elevation
June, 2013, Page 120
ARIZONA’s LOW DESERT
WHAT TO PLANT
Vining veggies to cover compost
—If you compost in the traditional style of three square wooden bins (perhaps made of shipping pallets) placed side-by-side, consider planting a vining vegetable crop (Armenian cucumber, cantaloupe, gourd) nearby. If your compost is already rich and decomposed, you can plant it within the compost. As the plants grow, long vines will scramble up and over the bins, covering them with a wall of foliage that helps keep compost from drying out in summer. It makes an unusual living green sculpture as well. This idea is practical only if you do not plan to turn or use the compost until fall, as the dense foliage makes access difficult. At the end of the growing season, chop up the vines and toss them into the bin.
—Sow seeds for black-eyed peas and okra. Transplant sweet potato slips.
—Sow seeds or transplants. Basil performs well in pots with consistent soil moisture and morning sun.
—Sow seeds in improved garden soil and keep moist until germination.
—Hold off on transplanting most landscape plants until fall. Palms are the exception; they love to get growing in the heat of summer. Avoid transplanting queen palms. Although sold locally, they are not well adapted to the low desert’s alkaline soil and often suffer from yellowing fronds.
—Plant Bermuda grass seed, sod or stolons.
—Tomato pollen is not viable when temperatures rise above 90 degrees F, and plants will stop setting fruit. However, covering them with 50-percent shade cloth allows existing fruit to mature and helps the vines make it through summer (with water and mulch) to perhaps bear again in fall. Some gardeners prefer to pull tomato plants after fruiting is finished because surviving the stressful heat of summer may reduce overall vigor and make them susceptible to pests and diseases.
Adjust irrigation timers
—Program controllers to water more frequently as temperatures warm. With each application, remember the 1-2-3 Rule: Water should soak 1 foot deep for small, shallow-rooted plants; 2 feet deep for shrubs; and 3 feet deep for trees.
Tend garlic and shallots
—Reduce watering as the tops start to yellow. Excess water will rot the bulbs. When tops brown naturally, dig up the bulbs, clean off soil and store for later use.
—Pick any late-maturing grapefruit and Valencia oranges. The typical advice is to allow citrus to hang on the tree as the best “storage” method, but with the arrival of hot temperatures, fruit quality declines quickly.
Cathy Cromell is a Master Gardener and co-author of Earth-Friendly Desert Gardening (Arizona Master Gardener Press).
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