October/November 2022 Garden Checklist and Solutions
BULBS Plant allium, daffodils, tulips, Oriental poppy, Dutch and bearded iris, peony and hyacinth before mid-November for colorful blooms all spring. After digging the planting holes to a depth 2 to 3 times the height of the bulb, mix a source of phosphorus such as superphosphate or bone meal into the soil before placing with the pointed end up. Phosphorus supports root growth and flowering, particularly in cold weather. Gently backfill with original soil and cover with a 3- to 4-inch layer of mulch to suppress weed germination and insulate against temperature extremes.
SHOP LOCAL AND LEARN Local farmers markets and native plant nurseries are great places to purchase plants proven to thrive in your conditions. There’s a good chance the folks you meet there will have gardening wisdom they are happy to share with you. And, buying from locally owned businesses strengthens and keeps money in the community.
REDUCE IRRIGATION As days become cooler, increase the time between watering your landscape and garden. Always apply enough water to wet the entire root ball, at least to the edge of the plant’s canopy and to a depth of 1 foot for turf, vegetables and annuals, 2 feet for shrubs and vines, and 3 feet for trees. The exception to this is newly planted seeds, which should not be allowed to dry out between waterings.
HARVEST SWEET POTATOES Once sweet potato leaves start to turn yellow, gently dig up tubers with a shovel, being careful not to nick or bruise the thin skin. Allow them to cure for three to four days in a cool, dry location, after which time they can be stored in typical kitchen conditions for up to six months.
EVERLASTING SALAD Just about any leafy green or root vegetable can be planted from seed now, as can broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and sugar or snow peas. Prep beds by mixing in an inch or two of aged compost, soil sulfur and a fertilizer such as bone meal or ammonium phosphate into the soil. Extend your harvest by only planting half of the seeds now and the rest in two weeks.
Woody vines For a fast-growing vine that can offer summer shade but goes dormant and leafless in winter, try Queen’s wreath (Antigonon leptopus), a Sonoran Desert native that climbs by tendrils and produces sprays of delicate flowers in shades of pink and red. Pink honeysuckle (Lonicera americana) stays green year-round and blooms pale pink, intensely sweet-smelling flowers in the spring.
MANAGE COOL-SEASON WEEDS If winter weeds have been a problem in rock landscapes in past years, mid-November is the time to apply a pre-emergence herbicide. Follow the product label to apply, store and dispose of the chemical, or hire a licensed applicator to do the job. Keep in mind that applying a pre-emergence herbicide will prevent all seedlings from germinating, so don’t use these products in areas where you are trying to establish wildflowers.
Middle and Low Elevations
ANNUALS Create your own gorgeous flower beds and bowls by incorporating the three pillars of an attractive arrangement: taller “thrillers” such as blooming salvias, fuchsia, snapdragons and cannas, “fillers” with beautiful foliage, such as Dusty Miller, coleus and cordyline and “spillers” that cascade, including Mandevillla and petunias. Keep blooms coming until spring by pinching off spent flowers and regularly fertilizing.
CONIFERS Cone-bearing evergreens—including scaly-leafed juniper, cypress, arbor-vitae and cedar and needle-leafed, pine, fir and spruce—are low-maintenance landscape options. Varieties range from groundcovers (‘Blue Chip’ juniper) to towering trees (Italian cypress) and all sizes and shapes between. They all require irrigation year-round and occasional washing off with a strong stream of water to grow and be healthy. Plant no deeper than the root ball; replace the native soil into the planting hole and settle with a gentle stream of water. Cover with 2 to 3 inches of mulch to protect new roots.
Middle and High Elevations
flowers and grasses Seed a mixture of flowering, low-growing native plants, such as desert marigold (Baileya multiradiata) and lupine (Lupinus spp.), plus native grasses including blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis) and buffalo grass (Bouteloua dactyloides)—not to be confused with the invasive species buffelgrass (Pennisetum ciliare). Become familiar with what the newly sprouted seedlings look like, so you can distinguish between your meadow plants and weeds. Promptly remove weeds as they emerge to keep them from crowding out desirable plants.
Cool-season vegetables Onions, radish, spinach and peas can be planted from seed. Stick with transplants for broccoli and cabbage.
Harvest summer vegetables Tomatoes can be eaten green and are delicious fried or pickled. Pick pumpkins once the skin has turned orange. Leave at least 2 inches of stem attached to pumpkins to make them easier to transport.
Manage leaf litter Leaves shed from deciduous trees and vines makes excellent mulch. You can let the leaves decompose in place or rake them up and add them to the compost pile if insects were a problem this spring and summer. The heat of the compost pile should kill any existing pests.
FERTILIZE PERENNIALS AND BULBS Spread a source of phosphorus, such as rock phosphate, ammonium phosphate or bone meal around plants this fall to support strong growth and blooming in the spring. Mix phosphorus into the soil and water right away.
The catalpa tree at our Heber cabin seems to be dying. Two years ago, one small branch grew, but each year another branch dies. What is causing this, and can we save the tree?
Catalpa trees are susceptible to a soil-borne fungal disease called “Verticillium wilt.” As the name implies, Verticillium wilt causes withering in affected plants by cutting off water supply to the leaves. There is no cure for this disease which will likely eventually kill the tree. If you are particularly fond of your catalpa, you can prolong its life by pampering it with annual spring fertilizer application and supplemental irrigation. Otherwise, remove it, burn the wood and, due to the fungus’ persistence in the soil for years, only plant Verticillium-resistant species in its place such as pine, oak and mountain ash.
This past summer we discovered a yellow, foamy substance covering part of our lawn and growing up the trunk of a tree. Our landscaper cleaned it up but couldn’t offer any advice on how to prevent it from coming back. What can we do?
The substance was probably a harmless slime mold called “dog vomit fungus,” getting its unusual moniker due to a superficial similarity to, well, dog vomit. Originally thought to be a fungus, slime molds are more closely related to certain types of algae. They feed on dead organic matter, such as wood mulch or thick thatch layers in Bermuda grass and pose no threat to grass or trees, other than potentially shading the lawn. There isn’t anything you can do to prevent slime mold from reappearing next year. Your landscaper did the right thing by simply cleaning it up and not applying any chemicals to try to manage it. Some people consider dog vomit fungus to be an interesting, seasonal addition to a diverse landscape.
I volunteer at my daughter’s school garden and am looking for suggestions for easy vegetables to grow for the children that can be planted in Chandler during the fall.
Gardening is a great way to teach children to appreciate fresh vegetables. The best crops to grow yield within a month or two after planting and can be eaten raw, with minimal preparation. Radishes are among the easiest to grow, but choose varieties with a mild flavor, such as ‘Watermelon’ or ‘Fire and Ice.’ Pungent or peppery varieties can burn a child’s tongue and make them reluctant to try anything else from the garden. Radishes are also a space-saver—16 radishes can fit into 1 square foot of garden. Sugar snap peas are another favorite among children due to their sweet flavor. Snap peas are climbers, so train them up to a trellis for easy access at harvest time.
Pro Tip: Planting Citrus
By Marshall Eckert, Moon Valley Nurseries
As temperatures cool down, the desert soil remains warm from the summer’s heat, making November the perfect month to plant new fruit trees in your landscape. The warmth of the soil will help the tree’s root structure establish itself more efficiently in its new environment, while the cooler weather will allow you to water your new tree properly without the worry of evaporation. Planting in the fall also sets fruit trees up for success through the winter and into spring by giving them a few months to focus on creating robust root systems. Once spring arrives, your trees will be healthy and ready to flourish.
Monitor Your Watering Schedule—As temperatures cool, your irrigation schedule should be adjusted regularly. This will help ensure that you are not overwatering your trees. For best results, water deeply twice a week, enough to saturate the soil 2 to 3 feet below ground level.
Trim and Clean Trees—With the monsoon season over, attend to any damage to mature trees caused by storms and remove any branches that look unhealthy. Trim trees before temperatures get too cold to prevent weather damage to fresh cuts.
Fertilize Trees—During fall months, active growth of trees slows. Rather than directing nutrients to their branches’ leaves, trees focus on root health. Fertilizing both newly planted and mature fruit trees now not only promotes efficient root development but also aids in new top growth, resulting in lush foliage throughout the winter and fresh growth in spring.