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January 2021 Garden Checklist

Rosa ‘Mister Lincoln’

What to Plant: Low Elevations


There are hundreds of rose varieties, many of which thrive in the Arizona desert, and each offers a unique appearance. For example, ‘John F. Kennedy’ produces large, white flowers, while ‘Mr. Lincoln’ is fragrant with deep red blooms. Look for bare-root roses at nurseries in January, when they are still dormant and leafless. By the beginning of February, most roses start sprouting spring leaves, so opt for container-grown species at that time, which tend to survive better when planted after mid-month. Put them in a location that will get six to eight hours of direct sunlight each day. Dig the planting hole the depth of the root ball and twice as wide to encourage healthy roots. Cover new plantings with 3 to 4 inches of mulch to insulate the soil against temperature extremes and conserve precious moisture.


Spruce up your landscape with the addition of plantings that will burst with color come spring. Try chocolate flower (Berlandiera lyrate), which produce yellow daisylike blooms that smell like the beloved candy, or moss verbena (Glandularia tenera), with its delicate foliage and purple blossoms. Chuparosa, (Justicia californica) produces orange, tubular flowers that attract hummingbirds. Keep in mind that frost can damage new growth on some species, so cover fresh plantings when temperatures are predicted to dip below 32 degrees.


Transplant dormant bare-root asparagus crowns now. Dig a trench about 10 inches deep. Sprinkle a phosphorus fertilizer, such as bone meal or rock phosphorus, in the bottom of the channel. Spread the crowns evenly throughout the trench, and replace just enough soil to cover the roots, about 2 inches deep. Once the plants are about 4 inches tall, fill the trenches with the remaining soil. This will encourage long, strong stalks.


Get your tomato plants in the ground now, while conditions are optimal for growth that will support blooming in March. Select healthy plants with deep green leaves (no yellowing) that show no evidence of curling or wilting, which may indicate they have been infected with disease. Remove the lower leaves, leaving three or four at the tip of the stem, and plant a bit deep, so that there is about an inch or two of stem above the soil line. Tomatoes grow roots along stems that are in contact with the soil, so it’s okay to transplant them more deeply than you might with other vegetables. The extra roots will help the plants access more water as the weather warms and dries.

What to Plant: Middle Elevations


The cooler temperatures of middle elevations are ideal for growing a variety of fruit trees that can’t be grown as easily in Arizona’s low desert, such as Asian pear, persimmon and multiple species of cherry and apple. To protect and encourage new root growth, plant the tree in a hole that is at least twice the width but no deeper than the root ball. Lightly water every two to three days for the first few months, gradually increasing the amount applied and the length of time between irrigating as summer approaches. Learn more about recommended different fruit trees by downloading “Backyard Fruit Production at Elevation of 3,500 to 6,000 Feet” free at

What to Plant: High Elevations


Start spinach, chard, arugula, kale, leaf lettuce, snow and snap pea seeds indoors to transplant outside in two months. Sterilize planting containers with a 10% bleach solution, made by mixing 1 part chlorine bleach with 9 parts water. Use growing containers that feature drainage holes in the bottom. Fill each with a seed-starting blend that has been mixed with water and has the moisture content of a wrung-out sponge. Place the containers in a sunny window or under grow lights, which are available at hydroponic supply stores.

Garden Maintenance: Low Elevations


Cover frost-tender shrubs and vines with commercially available frost cloth or cotton sheets. The fabric should reach all the way to the ground to trap heat inside. Before covering, water the soil to a depth of at least 1 foot. Moist soils stay warmer than dry soils.


Cut roses back to 10-inch stalks to encourage new growth and blooms in the coming weeks. Use clean, sharp bypass shears. These make a more precise cut than anvil shears, which tend to crush the stem.

Garden Maintenance: Middle Elevations


Take advantage of the last of winter leaflessness to scout for damaged or crossed limbs and remove them. Use loppers to cut stems less than 1 inch in diameter and a pruning saw for thicker limbs. Tree pruning is both an art and a science. Making a bad pruning cut can have long-term negative consequences, such as an unattractive tree that may fail and die, so hire a certified arborist if you suspect you are in over your head. To learn more about pruning trees or find an arborist, visit

Garden Maintenance: High Elevations


Knock accumulated snow from tree branches to prevent breakage caused by the excess weight. Pile snow in rings just outside the edge of shrub and tree canopies; as the snow melts it will water the roots.


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