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desert gardening basics
september 2014 gardening checklist for arizona’s low, mid and high elevation
September 2014 Gardening Checklist for Arizona’s Low, Mid and High Elevation
September, 2014, Page 140
WHAT TO PLANT
ARIZONA’S LOW ELEVATIONS
Next month is the low-desert gardener’s prime planting time. Temperatures have cooled; it’s less stressful for root systems to establish; and plants don’t need as much water to survive. Also, populations of pests such as whiteflies that attack young seedlings are less prevalent. However, if you’re itching to get your hands in the soil after the summer hiatus, it’s OK to start planting in mid-September. Monitor plants daily for signs of water stress.
Desert-adapted landscape plants
—Site trees, shrubs, vines, groundcovers, ornamental grasses, perennials, cacti and succulents by their mature height and width, allowing room to grow without interference or unnecessary pruning to keep them in bounds.
—Sow seeds directly in garden soil for cool-season root crops, such as beets, carrots, radishes and turnips. To avoid heat stress and whiteflies, start seeds indoors for cabbage-family plants, which will transplant easily into the garden next month. Choices include bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and kale.
—Sow seeds for chives, cilantro, dill and parsley.
—Palm trees are one of the few plants that thrive when planted in the heat. Transplant by mid-month.
ARIZONA’S MID AND HIGH ELEVATIONS
Organic salad bowl
—Fill a container with a tasty blend of cool-season leafy greens. There’s time for mid-elevation gardeners to sow seeds. Depending on specific microclimates, high-elevation gardeners may be better off jumpstarting growth with transplants, allowing harvest before the first frost. Keep in mind that not all “greens” are actually green. Consider adding red-leaf lettuces to the mix, such as ‘Flame Organic’ (60 days to maturity), ‘Lolla Rossa Organic’ (55 days) or ‘Red Velvet Organic’ (55 days). Seed Savers (seedsavers.org) offers these and other USDA-Certified Organic seeds.
Blue or purple fall bloomers to attract bees and butterflies
—Houdini Texas sage (
‘Houdini’) features foliage that is more succulent than other Texas sage varieties, with gray leaves resembling the texture of rosemary. Houdini also blooms later than its relatives, showing off profuse purple flowers when temperatures cool. ‘Monterrey Blue’ dalea features dainty-looking foliage and flowers despite the plant’s tough constitution. It takes full sun, minimal water and grows quickly to a mound that can reach 3 to 6 feet high and wide. Deciduous in cold weather, Monterrey Blue dalea rejuvenates after being cut back in late winter/early spring. Both plants are hardy to 10 degrees F. For late bloomers that are hardy to minus 15 degrees F, try the cobalt-blue flowers of west-Texas native Salvia reptans.
ARIZONA’S HIGH ELEVATIONS
—Transplant four to six weeks before your area’s first hard frost. Incorporate plentiful compost to produce loose, well-drained soil to inhibit bulb rot. If burrowing critters such as gophers are a problem in your landscape, surround bulbs with protective wire cages. Creatures generally ignore glory-of-the-snow (
.)—tiny bulbs that produce six-petaled flowers in very early spring. Its blue flower is one of the brightest blues in the garden; white or pink flowers are also available. Find bulbs at
FOR ARIZONA’S LOW ELEVATIONS
Enrich garden soil
—Layer 4 to 6 inches of compost on top of beds to decompose further before fall planting. Compost improves clay soil’s drainage capability, helps sandy soil retain moisture, adds nutrients, improves soil structure and reduces compaction. Compost also provides food for microorganisms and earthworms that are essential for healthy soil.
Freshen up roses
—Prepare rosesbushes for their second bloom cycle. Just as new growth begins to appear, remove any dead or damaged canes. Lightly trim weak top growth. Remove suckers that arise from below the bud union (a raised bump where the variety and rootstock are grafted) because they waste the plant’s energy and will not produce desired blooms. Do not remove more than one-third of the total bush. Feed with a slow-release fertilizer to last through fall.
—Spread the third and final nitrogen application of the year around the outer edges of the tree’s entire drip line (canopy edge). Immediately water deeply through the root zone, 3 feet down for mature trees.
Harvest tepary beans
—As soon as pods begin to dry, start harvesting. If left too long on the plant, pods burst open and disperse their seeds. If critters do not snap them up, beans will lie in wait in the soil, perhaps to germinate with next year’s monsoon rains.
Houdini Texas sage
ARIZONA’S MID AND HIGH ELEVATIONS
Remove spent flowers
—Pinch or clip dead flowers to extend their blooming season. If seed heads are allowed to form, plants expend energy on reproduction instead of continued flowering.
—Enjoy fresh-picked from the garden or dry the excess for winter use or holiday gifts. Use rosemary stems as skewers to impart extra flavor to grilled items.
Cathy Cromell is a Master Gardener and co-author of Earth-Friendly Desert Gardening (Arizona Master Gardener Press).
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