Category Archives: Monthly To Do List
Are your winter desert gardens giving you a showcase?
As the desert moves into the second half of winter, your pots should be starting to really show off. In spite of the cold temperatures over the holidays, February’s potential warming will spur your seasonal annuals to bloom beautifully for you!
You may have heard me say this before New desert gardeners often say, “You can’t have flowers in the winter!” I always felt that statement was from their experience back home in cold winter country. I would also discover that they were trying to grow annuals that are not our winter flowers.
By the way, if you are looking for lists of flowers that do work in the harsh desert climate, check out my book, Getting Potted in the Desert.
Follow these tips to have a gorgeous riot of color the rest of the winter.
- Cover your pots when there are forecasts for below freezing temperatures. You need to know your micro climates around your home. If you are in a cold pocket, you will need to cover even when the forecast is above 32.
- Not sure of your temps? Pick up a digital thermometer with a readout memory at your local hardware store.
- Be sure that the soil of ornamentals is damp before going into a freeze. Do not water succulents however.
- Cover the plants/pots with frost cloth or blankets. Do not use towels or other materials that will become laden with water if it rains. Certainly, do not use plastic.
- Remove cloths after temps rise above 40.
- Fertilize your potted flowers and ornamentals every two weeks with a water soluble fertilizer dissolved in water. Spray both the plants and the soil with the nutrient rich mixture. Water with this deeply.
- Deadhead spent flowers all the way back to the originating stem regularly.
- Be sure your pots have enough water but are not saturated continually. Soil drying rates depend on:
- The size of your pots
- How much sun they receive
- Day and night temperatures
- Shade provided by the plants themselves keeping the soil cooler
- Windy days
You might need to monitor this on a regular basis. But if your pots are doing well with an abundance of flowers, just keep doing what you are doing.
Have realistic expectations. You need to be using the best plants and flowers for your climate and conditions.
- Don’t expect plants like Vinca and Tomatoes to survive a cold winter.
- Snapdragons and Petunias will stop blooming when it is really chilly.
- Annuals considered to be hot climate winter performers may still freeze succumbing to the cold. Lobelia and Geraniums will be the first to go.
Take some time to devise the methods you need for your garden to become the envy of your neighbors.
Think Positively – You Can Grow Beautiful Pots even in the hot summer
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1. Garden and water in the very early mornings.
Who wants to be out in the heat?
2. Increase watering frequency to be sure pots don’t dry out.
You want your pots to be damp throughout.
3. Deadhead your spent flowers weekly to encourage new buds
Doing this weekly makes it be less of a chore.
4. Avoid pruning plants now that the desert has heated up.
Pruning now leads to sunburn by exposing previously shaded stems.
5. Keep up with bi-weekly pot fertilizing with a water-soluble fertilizer.
Be sure the soil is already damp before applying fertilizer.
Special notes on roses (From the Rose Society of Tucson)
Water, water, water:
- As temperatures remain above 100 degrees, water potted roses daily.
- New potted roses may need water twice a day
- NEW RECOMMENDATION: Water late in the afternoon after 6 p.m. during this time of year which allows for less evaporation
- Place potted roses in an area that gets afternoon shade
Spray off your roses daily with water: The No.1 enemy of roses during the summer in hot and dry climates are spider mites. Spider mites, which look like small salt-and-pepper particles under leaves, will suck the leaves dry until they turn light brown and fall off. Keeping as much foliage on your plants is crucial to rose health during the summer.Every morning, spray off your roses with a jet of water supplied by a nozzle attached to your water hose. YMake sure you spray underneath the leaves of the plant. By doing this daily, this will prevent spider mites from getting started. The added benefit is adding humidity to your garden which is vital in arid summer conditions.
Do not deadhead or remove dead leaves during the heat. Every bit of added shade helps.
How do you remember our winter so far this year? Rainy, chilly, downright cold?
Do not let a warm week in February allow you to think that winter is over. We can and most likely will have freezing temperatures this month and possible into March. Average last frost date is March 15 and remember – That is the AVERAGE!!! I just read that Chad Borseth from Native Seed Search and Facebook Group Tucson Backyard Gardening posted that he bases the last freeze being over by when his Mesquite tree blooms. Great tip from one of Tucson’s experts.
Potted Garden Tips for February:
Frosted or Frozen Plant Damage
- Do not be tempted to prune back frost damaged plants yet.
- We need to wait until the danger of frost is over (average date March 15)
- Watch for a surprise frost and cover tender annuals.
Fertilize your citrus around Valentine’s Day
- Water both the day before and immediately after applying granular fertilizers.
- Use a granular fertilizer according to the directions on the package. Size and age of the trees determine how much fertilizer you use.
- Fertilize mature trees away the trunk, meaning the outer two thirds of the ground of the leaf canopy where the most active roots are.
- Give the trees a deep soaking watering after applying the fertilizer.
- Newly planted trees do not need fertilizer the first 1-2 years after planting).
- Note: Whether you use Ammonium Sulfate, Ammonium Phosphate or Citrus Food fertilizer it’s important to read instructions because the amount of fertilizer need per year will vary depending on the age, size, and type of citrus tree. For example, a medium-sized adult tree 5-6 years after planting needs 6.2 pounds of Ammonium Sulfate per year (split into three applications). Grapefruit trees 5 or more years after planting need half the amount for other citrus.
Source: Pima County Master Gardener Program
- Continue to pick your citrus. You do not need to harvest all of the fruit just because the trees come into flower. Grapefruit and Valencia oranges will continue to sweeten while left on the trees.
- Continue your bi-weekly fertilizing routine.
- Deadhead regularly and prune to shape plants.
- Blast your plants with a jet spray from about 4 feet away to deter pests and disease.
- Water potted cactus and succulents if you have not gotten ample rain. If you have registered an inch of rain in the last month, that is enough for now.
- Complete all pruning of your roses by mid-February.
- Once you’re done pruning, be sure to clean up all the old mulch and dead leaves and throw them in the trash, not your compost pile. Dead leaves can often have mildew spores and other diseases on them that can infest your compost pile and create problems later on.
- Apply both a pesticide and a fungicide to your pruned roses and the soil in the pots. Fungus spores such as mildew can live through the winter in your soil.
- Apply long-term or organic fertilizer, such as Max Magic Mix, Bandini Rose Food or homemade com-post. Also, it helps to add superphosphate at this time and apply a half cup of Epsom salts. Scratch it into the soil and water in.
- Two weeks following the long-term fertilizing, begin your regular short-term or liquid fertilizing program using a water soluble fertilizer such as Rapid Gro or Miracle Gro.
- Once growth appears, start in on your hose jet-spray regime to keep the aphids and mildew away.
- Continue to water your roses. As daytime temperatures increase, increase your watering frequency making sure the pot drains with each watering.
Have a beautiful month! February and March are our spring months and we want to get out and enjoy our splendid winter gardens!
Greetings All! Happy December!
As I sat down to write this month’s post, as often happens after Thanksgiving, I was a little uninspired. There are many things I rather be doing than gardening this month or even writing about gardening. When I get to this point of the year, I am often ready to take a break and just enjoy my garden, tending it a little and then getting on with the holidays! So I thought – that is OK! I am human, am I not? I can tell my gardening friends like it is and I would not be surprised if you don’t tell me you are feeling it too!
I have spent a lot of time this fall getting the word out on my book, Getting Potted in the Desert. It has been a blast and I cannot tell you how thrilled I am with the response I have received. I know it was a long time coming and I kept promising those in my classes that some day this information would be available in print/published form. I keep placing more orders for copies and will keep doing so until we get all desert dwellers potted!! I plan to get it on Amazon and in an e-book form after the holidays.
It’s not to late to order books now – for yourself or for a gift.
I am also planning many more workshops and book events the first half of 2016 – Check out the upcoming events page here on the website or if you are reading this via the blog, over to the right.
Here is a quote from one of our book purchasers:
I moved to Tucson a year and a half ago from the Seattle, Washington area. I needed to “re-learn” and adjust to many new gardening techniques in this Sonoran Desert climate. Marylee’s new book is a godsend. I now have a “to do” list for every month with the information I need to take care of my landscape and pots … as well as add new plants or dispose of ones I don’t want any longer. Thank You Marylee! Kathy P.
If you are so inclined to do some planting this month:
You might want to pick up some extra flowers to make your pots company ready. Or add an arrangement to your front door. Whatever whim you have, keep it simple and save your time and energy for other holiday preparations and definitely time to enjoy your friends and family.
Happy Holidays to you!
Keep everyone you love close – if not in person, than in your hearts.
Take time for each other and to smell the flowers!