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desert gardening basics
august 2013 gardening checklist for arizona’s low elevation
August 2013 Gardening Checklist for Arizona’s Low Elevation
August, 2013, Page 128
ARIZONA’s LOW DESERT
WHAT TO PLANT
Late crop of warm-season veggies
—Sow snap beans, black-eyed peas and sweet corn.
Sow seeds indoors—About six weeks before transplanting outdoors—around mid-September—start seeds for such cool-season veggies as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, chard and Chinese cabbage.
—Maximilian sunflower plants (Helianthus maximiliana) average 4 to 8 feet tall. Native to Texas and the Plains states, many golden-yellow flowers cover their stalks from August through October. Monarch butterflies sip the flower nectar. They are prolific seed producers, providing valuable autumn food for birds. These sunflowers spread by underground rhizomes and may eventually form a dense hedge. Try growing them against a wall, combined with holly-hocks. The plants die back at the end of their growing season, but resprout the following year. Transplants are available at highcountrygardens.com; or seeds can be ordered from plantsofthesouthwest.com.
Palm trees and Bermuda grass lawns
—Both of these love to get their root systems growing in the heat. Wait to add other landscape plants until temperatures cool in September or October.
Control spider mites
—Windstorms deposit a film of dust on foliage, and spider mites thrive in such dusty conditions. Signs of mites include rusty coloration (many species are rust-colored), fine webbing, and white or yellow pinpricks where they pierced foliage to suck sap. Hose off plants with a blast of water as frequently as needed to remove dust and inhibit mites. The best times to spray are early morning or late afternoon so that evaporated salt residue in the water doesn’t “burn” foliage during the heat of day. Spraying in the evening isn’t recommended because foliage that remains wet encourages fungal diseases.
—As needed, replenish several inches of bark chips, compost, dried leaves, grass clippings, pine needles, straw or a mix of these as top dressing in garden beds, containers, around the root zones of landscape plants and on permeable paths. Mulch reduces soil temperatures, maintains soil moisture and inhibits weeds. Granite mulch performs these same functions, although the above organic mulches add nutrients to the soil as they break down.
—Apply the third and final portion of nitrogen in August or September. Water deeply immediately after spreading granular fertilizer around the tree canopy’s outer edge.
Harvest rainwater—In the Phoenix area, about 6,000 gallons of rainwater can be collected annually from a 1,000-square-foot roof. To channel water to planting areas, observe where rain naturally flows off your roof and onto your property, and incorporate swales (shallow depressions) in the soil.
Cathy Cromell is a Master Gardener and co-author of Earth-Friendly Desert Gardening (Arizona Master Gardener Press).
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