July Garden Checklist
Learn what to plant this month, get maintenance advice, and troubleshoot your gardening challenges with an expert.
By Kelly Young
What to Plant
SUNFLOWERS–If your goal is to harvest seeds for snacking, sow ‘Mammoth Russian,’ a tried-and-true variety known for plump, meaty seeds. If you prefer cut flowers, ‘Sunrich Lime’ isn’t likely to droop in a vase. Plant where seedlings will get plenty of light and have enough room to reach their full size, as indicated on the seed packet.
NATIVE CROPS–Indigenous people of the Southwest deserts traditionally plant crops at the onset of the monsoon season, when warm temperatures, higher humidity and evening rain showers support seed germination. Tepary beans, cowpeas, amaranth for both greens and seeds, pumpkins and corn can be planted from seed now. The nonprofit organization Native Seed Search grows and sells these and other traditional garden seeds. Visit them at nativeseeds.org. To prevent birds, whiteflies and other pests from destroying emerging seedlings, shield new plantings with floating row covers, available for purchase at most retail garden centers.
PALMS–Palms are among the few landscape plants that prefer summer plantings. Date palms (Phoenix dactylifera) can reach 75 feet in height with a canopy up to 30 feet wide. The smaller windmill palm (Trachycarpus fortunei) will eventually reach 20 feet high with a spread of 8 feet.
TREES–Deciduous native ash trees, including Arizona ash (Fraxinus velutina) and single- leaf ash (Fraxinus anomala), provide shade under their leafy canopies in summer but let the sun shine through after the foliage drops in fall. If you prefer evergreen, consider native alligator (Juniperus deppeana) or one- seeded (Juniperus monosperma) junipers. To encourage root growth, dig the planting hole wider but no deeper than the root ball. Use only native soil in the backfill; adding compost may cause the soil to sink later.
Rejuvenate your garden with varieties that thrive in the mountainous west. The Arboretum at Flagstaff will be having their summer sale on Saturday, July 13. For hours and location, visit thearb.org.
POLLINATOR GARDENS–Create a pollinator-friendly landscape with bee balm, yarrow, milkweeds, penstemon, columbine and salvias. Plant masses of each to catch the eyes of butterflies looking for a place to feed or lay eggs.
BUNCH GRASSES–Clumping muhlenbergia, squirrel tail and blue grama are low-maintenance native grasses that do not require mowing, and their fibrous root systems help prevent erosion on slopes. Plant them where they can get at least six hours of sunlight a day.
WARM-SEASON VEGETABLES–Transplant pumpkin, summer squash and watermelon starts in a bed where the vines have ample room to sprawl. Keep the soil cool and preserve moisture with a thick (2- to 4-inch) layer of mulch.
CULL SICKLY ANNUALS–Remove and discard garden vegetables and annual flowers that have succumbed to pests. Plants that are heavily infested with aphids, whiteflies or disease can infect nearby healthy plants.
TROUBLESHOOT IRRIGATION SYSTEMS–Ill-functioning irrigation systems waste water. Inspect and replace drip emitters and sprinkler heads that are worn out or are hopelessly clogged. You’ll find more tips for keeping your irrigation system in peak performance by visiting the City of Mesa’s site, “Solving Your Most Common Irrigation Problems,” available at mesaaz.gov.
KILL YOUR LAWN–If the hassle of caring for your turf outweighs the pleasure it offers, now may be time to remove it. The best time to kill warm-season perennial grasses, such as Bermuda grass, is now, while they are actively growing. Any lawn remnants that survive the initial treatment will green up and show themselves quickly. Keep after them with whatever strategy you choose until all the grasses’ stored reserves have been exhausted. Learn more about responsible use of herbicides to kill Bermuda grass by downloading, “Converting Turf to a Xeriscape Landscape” at extension.arizona.edu.
WASH OFF DUST–If dust storms are not followed by enough rainfall to wash accumulated dirt from foliage, spray plants down once this month. Heavy layers of dust can harbor spider mites —pests that feed on plant juices and lead to the plants’ eventual decline.
CONTINUOUSLY HARVEST–Most summer vegetables produce continuously throughout the growing season. Okra, peppers, cucumbers and eggplant don’t technically ripen, so harvest when the fruits are the size you prefer. Pick cantaloupes when the melon easily detaches from the vine. A watermelon is ripe when the side resting on the ground turns from green to yellow.
PREVENT CITRUS FRUIT SPLIT–Water citrus trees every five to 10 days to a depth of 3 feet. Citrus relies on regular irrigation to prevent rinds from becoming rigid and splitting.
Middle and High Elevations
DIVIDE IRIS AND DAY LILIES–Once blooming is finished, use a garden fork to lift the entire clump from the ground and divide the rhizomes, the term for fleshy, underground, horizontal stems. Remove the soil, but leave the roots intact. Use a clean, sharp knife to divide the rhizomes, and discard any that have holes or appear damaged. Leave divided rhizomes outside, under the cover of shade for a few days to let the cut dry out before storing or planting.
PRO TIP: MONSOON READINESS
By Kris Myers, manager, Desert Foothills Gardens Nursery Inc., Cave Creek
In Arizona, monsoon season runs from mid-June through September, bringing, on average, half of our annual rainfall. While intense storms can come on with little warning, you can minimize damage to your home and landscape by being proactive and storm-wise.
- Do not plant saguaros or other large cacti in low-lying areas, as they may topple and/or rot when saturated by heavy rains.
- To help minimize wind damage, keep trees healthy by treating any pest infestations, removing dead limbs and thinning heavy canopies.
- To avoid over-saturating the ground, turn your irrigation clock to “rain” or “off” when heavy precipitation starts.
- Remove storm debris from rain gutters to prevent mildew, rotting and leaks.
Secure patio furniture, umbrellas and other items so that they don’t end up in your pool or your neighbor’s yard.
My partner and I are adopting a desert tortoise. What can we plant now that is easy to grow and will be ready for our new pet to enjoy eating in a few weeks?
THANK YOU FOR MAKING A FOREVER HOME for a captive native tortoise that may live another 50 years (or more). The Arizona Department of Game & Fish publishes a guide entitled “Native Plants for Desert Tortoises,” available at azgfd.gov. I recommend approaching your tortoise-friendly landscape from three directions:
1. Create a seasonal garden bed that can be refreshed with annual flowers, vegetables and even weeds at the start of each warm and cool season. Right now you can plant desert senna, morning glory, pumpkins, squash and melons in that bed.
2. Install perennials where the hungry tortoise won’t mow them down before they are established. Hold off until October to plant desert willow, prickly pear, globemallow and deer grass.
3. If you don’t already have one, establish a Bermuda grass lawn.
I inherited my mother’s pothos plant, which had been thriving in her house for more than 20 years. It’s very long and leggy. If I trim it back to a reasonable size, will it resprout? I can’t bear the thought of it dying.
POTHOS IS EASILY PROPAGATED from cuttings. Each node, or section of the stem where a leaf has been attached, is capable of sprouting new roots and shoots. Your mom’s plant was likely a cutting of its own genetically identical ancestor. Select the next generation from among the actively growing shoots at each stem’s tip. Snip off sections of vine that have at least four nodes and root them in water or vermiculite before transplanting into potting soil. Your mother’s pothos may give rise to several clones.
Our navel oranges have a light- colored ring around the tops of the fruits where they attach to the stem. What causes this? Are the fruits safe to eat? How can we prevent it in the future?
IT SOUNDS LIKE YOUR NAVEL ORANGES have damage from citrus thrips, tiny insects that feed by scraping plant tissues with their brushlike tongues. The blemishes you see on the fruit were probably formed back in March, when the fruits were just beginning to develop. Other than the visible scar you described, the feeding damage does not affect the quality, flavor or safety of the fruit. Future feeding by thrips is almost impossible to predict or prevent. No treatment is necessary.