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desert gardening basics
gardening checklist for arizona’s low, mid and high elevation
Gardening Checklist for Arizona’s Low, Mid and High Elevation
January, 2014, Page 124
WHAT TO PLANT
ARIZONA'S LOW ELEVATIONS
—Transplant Modern hybrids and Old Garden (antique) roses. Intensely fragrant antique options include ‘Baronne Prévost’, ‘Francis Dubreuil’, ‘Hermosa’, ‘Reine des Violettes’ and ‘Zephirine Drouhin’. Find them at antiqueroseemporium.com. Note: Some Old Garden roses may develop into dense hedges if space allows.
Bare-root deciduous fruit and nut trees
—Varieties are categorized by their ripening season—early, mid or late. Planting for each time period will lengthen the harvest season from two weeks (one variety) up to eight or 10 weeks.
—Transplant a cheery mix of easy-to-grow calendula, Iceland poppy, nasturtium, pansy, petunia, snapdragon, stock and viola.
—Transplant borage, cilantro, dill, parsley and thyme.
—Sow seeds for peas, root crops and salad greens. Transplant broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and Chinese cabbage.
Warm-season vegetable seeds
—Sow seeds indoors for peppers and tomatoes so that seedlings are ready to transplant outdoors between mid-February and mid-March (with frost protection). Small- to medium-size fruits are more likely to produce a good crop than beefsteak varieties, which often crack before they mature.
ARIZONA’S MID ELEVATIONS
—Transplant alyssum, bachelor’s button, calendula, candytuft, dianthus, dusty miller, Iceland poppy, ornamental kale, pansy, Shasta daisy, snapdragon, stock and viola.
Bare-root deciduous fruit trees
—Although they can be transplanted anytime during dormancy, February through March are ideal. Plan now to add apple, apricot, cherry, fig, nectarine, peach, pear, Asian pear, persimmon or plum. In tight spaces, choose self-fruitful varieties that do not need a second tree for cross-pollination. For example, most peaches are self-fruitful; most cherries require two varieties to cross-pollinate and bear fruit.
ARIZONA’S MID AND HIGH ELEVATIONS
Live Christmas trees
—Set containerized trees outdoors as soon as possible after the holidays to prevent needles from dropping. Transplant before the ground freezes. If the ground is frozen, place pots in a sheltered spot out of full sun and drying winds and transplant after spring thaw. Whether the tree is in the ground or still in its pot, maintain consistent soil moisture, so roots do not dry out.
ARIZONA’S LOW ELEVATIONS
Start a garden journal
—Log daily minimum cold temperatures in your garden and compare with official readings. When a freeze is forecast, you will know if your yard is typically cooler or warmer, which can help you decide whether to cover plants.
—Most aloe plants will survive temperatures in the high 20s, but their bloom stalks will likely be damaged. If nipped by frost, the flowers will not develop. Check for small bloom stalks just emerging from the plant’s center and cover with frost cloth.
—Feed in January or February with one-third of the tree’s total annual nitrogen requirement.
—Remove dead, weak and crossing canes. Prune back plants by one-third to one-half to promote spring blooms. Rake up all leaf litter and dispose of it to control pests and diseases. Fertilize and spread fresh mulch.
Attend a pruning demonstration
—Deciduous fruit trees and rosebushes depend upon careful pruning to maximize their fruit crop and spring blooms. Check with your county cooperative extension, local rose societies and garden clubs for pruning demos. Mesa-East Valley (Arizona) Rose Society welcomes volunteers to learn and prune at the Mesa Community College Rose Garden in January and February. Visit roses4az-mevrs.org.
ARIZONA’S MID ELEVATIONS
Keep an eye out for Jack Frost
—Be prepared to cover beds or move pots of frost-tender plants, including succulents and annual flowers and vegetables. Use frost cloth, burlap or old sheets and blankets, never plastic, which worsens damage. If possible, erect a support structure of stakes or PVC pipe to drape the cloth over, so it does not touch foliage. A lighted bulb or string of lights beneath this cloth “tent” adds warmth. Remove coverings by 10 a.m. the next day to prevent heat buildup, which encourages plant buds to break dormancy.
—Prune deciduous shade and fruit trees before new growth begins around mid- to late-February. Remove dead, damaged, diseased or crossing branches. Pruning evergreens now, while temperatures are cold, helps reduce messy resin and sap flow.
ARIZONA’S HIGH ELEVATION
Check stored flower bulbs
—Dispose of any bulbs showing decay. If they appear shriveled, sprinkle lightly with water.
Use snow sense
—Knock heavy snow accumulations off branches to prevent breakage. When shoveling driveways and sidewalks, pile snow around the bases of plants as insulation. As it melts, it will soak around the root systems to provide a deep, healthy drink.
Cathy Cromell is a Master Gardener and co-author of Earth-Friendly Desert Gardening (Arizona Master Gardener Press).
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