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desert gardening basics
july 2013 gardening checklist for arizona’s low elevation
July 2013 Gardening Checklist for Arizona’s Low Elevation
July, 2013, Page 120
ARIZONA’s LOW DESERT
WHAT TO PLANT
—Help youngsters sow seeds to grow their own tiny pumpkins in time for Halloween, including ‘Baby Bear’, ‘Jack Be Little’ or ‘White Baby Boo’. These 4- to 5-foot-long vines are manageable. If you are bored with orange, experiment with ‘Casper’, an 8- to 10-pound pumpkin with smooth, white skin; ‘Cinderella’, a red French heirloom; or ‘Black Futzu’, a Japanese heirloom with warty skin and coloration that changes from dark green to black to chestnut as it matures. Find seeds at
—Sow seeds slightly in advance of the monsoons to germinate during this season of rainfall and higher humidity. Buy desert-adapted seeds for amaranth, devil’s claw, melons, squash and tepary beans at Native Seeds/SEARCH in Tucson (
). Peruse their varied melon options collected from native peoples and pueblos around the Southwest. Choices include ‘Isleta Pueblo’, ‘Navajo Yellow’ and ‘O’odham Ke:li Ba:so’, which translates as “old woman’s knees,” a description referring to this casaba’s knobby appearance. It thrives in the low desert, producing sweet and tasty pale-green flesh.
Palms and Bermuda grass lawns
—Continue planting through summer, as both establish quickly in the heat.
Hang up your fruit
—If you train such vining crops as gourds, melons or squash to grow on trellises, tie slings made of old pantyhose (or similar) to support the hanging fruit. This helps prevent vine breakage.
—If weeds or diseases have infested your garden, this organic control method is effective. Spread 2 inches of manure on top of the soil and soak with water. Cover the bed loosely with a sheet of thick, clear plastic to allow the sun through. Bury the plastic edges or weigh them down with rocks so that the wind cannot blow the plastic away and the heat cannot escape. Leave it in place for six to eight weeks. The mixture of nitrogen in the manure, water and sunlight will heat up beneath the plastic, “cooking” the top layer of soil and killing most of the weed seeds and pathogens. Don’t worry about earthworms. They will burrow deep into the ground to escape the heat.
Prevent citrus rinds from cracking
—If trees are water-stressed in summer, their rinds will crack and split later in the growing season. Rinds become tough without adequate moisture and cannot expand as the fruit swells. To avoid this, water mature citrus trees every 10 to 14 days in summer. Water young trees (in the ground 2 or less years) every 5 to 10 days. Apply water at the drip line (outer canopy edge), and move emitters or hoses outward as the canopy spreads. Water should soak 3 feet deep with each application for mature trees.
Cathy Cromell is a Master Gardener and co-author of Earth-Friendly Desert Gardening (Arizona Master Gardener Press).
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