Monthly Desert Garden To-Do List for Phoenix Homeowners

Desert Gardening Checklist Month-to-Month

If you have a lawn or a garden in our Arizona desert, you might need a little assistance with what to expect in your garden, and what to do in your garden at certain times of the year to keep it healthy and beautiful. Here are some basic tips for caring for your desert plants, flowers, vegetables, and trees.

The information contained herein was obtained from The University of Arizona, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, with their permission. Keep in mind that soil and conditions vary from location to location. Check with a local yard or landscape expert for specific issues with your garden.

  • 01 of 12

    January Garden Chores and Tip

    Desert Garden
    ••• Judy Hedding

    Plant fruit trees!

    What To Do in January

    When frost is forecast, cover frost-tender plants with a sheet or some light covering (not plastic) by 8 p.m. and remove by 9 a.m. the next day. The covering should extend to the ground. Young trees should have trunks wrapped and foliage covered only if a hard freeze is expected. A mature citrus tree, older than 6 years, will survive with minimal damage.

    Grass

    • Fertilize once a month with Ironite for a dark green lawn and less mowing.
    • If you did not overseed the Bermuda grass, water the dormant Bermuda at least once a month.

    Trees/Shrubs

    • Move living Christmas Trees outside to a shaded, cool location. Transplant into permanent location as soon as soil temperatures warm.
    • Plant fruit and shade trees as early in January as you can. Plant bare-root trees before they leaf out. Plant potted deciduous trees.
    • Prune deciduous fruit trees and grapes.

    Flowers

    • Bedding plants can still be planted.
    • Planting flowers and veggies in pots and place on your patio, entry- way,...MORE or courtyard.
    • January is bare-root rose planting time.
    • In order of choice, plant roses on an east, south, or north exposure, west. Plant roses where they can have afternoon filtered shade.
    • Prune established roses for optimum blooming in April.
    • Cut canes back approximately one half. Remove all dead canes. Thin to remove weak or old canes. Strip off all leaves. Seal all cuts on canes with wood glue or a prepared sealer to prevent cane borers from boring into the cane.

    Vegetables

    • Plant seeds: beets, bok choy, carrots, chard, collard greens, leeks, lettuce, mustard, green onions, peas, potatoes, radishes, rutabagas, spinach and turnips.
    • Plant transplants: artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, chard, lettuce
    • Prepare your soil for a spring/summer garden. Organic matter, mulch, manure or compost is very important.

    Don't Make These Garden Mistakes in January

    1. Wait to prune frost damage from plants or trees until the later part of February.
    2. Don't fertilize dormant Bermuda grass until late April or May.
    3. Don't plant roses with western exposure because of the afternoon summer heat.
    4. Don't over-prune your palms. Palms with only the top three or four fronds remaining have been pruned excessively and improperly. Only the lower leaves, the ones that have turned brown or are yellowing should be removed.
    5. Too much fertilizer can cause salt burn and too little can cause nutrient deficiency problems. Water both the day before and immediately after applying granular fertilizers.
    6. Don't water grass at night when the temperatures are coolest as this fosters the growth of fungal diseases.
    7. Don't mow when grass is wet. This also may result in fungal disease.
    8. Don't delay on weed control. Handle weeds while they are young, tender, and their roots are manageable, or before they sprout.
  • 02 of 12

    February Garden Chores and Tips

    frost-protection02_1500.jpg
    ••• Be prepared to cover frost sensitive plants. Judy Hedding

    What To Do in February

    Even though it is starting to get a little warmer in the Valley of the Sun, we can still have an occasional frost. Don't forget that weather forecasts are generally quoted from Sky Harbor International Airport, and many of the outlying parts of the Valley can be up to 10°F colder than that at night. Be prepared to cover frost-tender plants.

    Bug talk:
    Aphids may be present on many plants. The best control is natural predators, such as lacewings, and praying mantis. Acquaint yourself with these insects, and if present do not use insecticides. Hosing the aphids off with a forceful spray of water is helpful in gaining control. A couple of drops of dish soap in a spray bottle of water can also be very effective.

    Grass

    • Ryegrass should be watered about once or twice a week depending on the weather. Bermuda grass needs water about once a month.
    • Bermuda will begin to turn green when nighttime lows reach about 65 degrees.

    Trees/Shrubs

    • Fertilize fruit, nut and shade trees,...MORE shrubs and vines.
    • Pecan trees and grape vines need a zinc rich fertilizer to help them produce their best.
    • Now is the time for shaping citrus trees a little, if you must. Normally there is no need to prune citrus like regular fruit trees. Try to let the citrus foliage grow to about knee high. The best fruit is produced on the lower two-thirds of the tree so raising the skirt reduces the amount of the fruit you will get.
    • Clean out dead wood.
    • Remove any suckers growing from below the graft.
    • Shape your ornamental shrubs so the new spring growth will fill in the bare branches and holes left from pruning.
    • While pruning frost-damaged plants, wait and prune after new growth has started.

    Flowers

    • Prepare flower beds for spring gardens.
    • Freshen up flower beds by removing faded or spent blooms.
    • Bare-root roses should be in the ground this month, the earlier the better.
    • Begin fertilizing established roses with granular fertilizers about the middle of the month.
    • Clean out dead or diseased wood in roses.
    • Remove weak and crossing canes and old leaves to discourage insects and disease.

    Vegetables

    • Plant seeds: beans, beets, bok choy, carrots, swiss chard, cucumbers, leaf lettuce, melons, mustard, onions, peas, potatoes, radishes, spinach, sunflowers, turnips, watermelons, Martha Washington asparagus (roots or crowns).
    • Plant transplants: artichokes, asparagus, chard, kohlrabi, lettuce, onion, peppers and tomatoes.
    • If you set out transplants before mid-February protect them from the cold.
    • Prepare your soil for a spring/summer garden. Organic matter, mulch, manure or compost is very important.
    • Fertilize producing vegetable gardens.
    • Corn may be seeded after mid-February. Plant short day varieties (less than 70 days).

    Don't Make These Garden Mistakes in February

    1. When pruning don't ever remove more than 1/4 of the total plant. Always use sharp, sterile, quality pruning tools and disinfect them between cuts to prevent the spread of disease.
    2. Don't cheat on soil preparation for flowers and vegetables.
    3. Don't fertilize dormant Bermuda grass until late April or May.
    4. Don't plant roses with western exposure because of the afternoon summer heat.
    5. Too much fertilizer can cause salt burn and too little can cause nutrient deficiency problems. Water both the day before and immediately after applying granular fertilizers.
    6. Don't fertilize mature trees near the trunk. Fertilize the outer two-thirds of the ground of the leaf canopy where the most active roots are.
    7. Don't water grass at night when the temperatures are coolest as this fosters the growth of fungal diseases.
    8. Don't mow when grass is wet. This also may result in fungal disease.
    9. Don't delay on weed control. Handle weeds while they are young, tender, and their roots are manageable, or before they sprout.
    10. Don't use a pre-emergent in an area where you are going to plant veggies and flowers from seed. It will prevent seeds from germination. It will not affect transplants.
  • 03 of 12

    March Garden Chores and Tips

    Grapefruit
    ••• Judy Hedding

    Even though it is warmer in the Valley in March, we can still have an occasional frost. Don't forget that weather forecasts are generally quoted from Sky Harbor International Airport, and many of the outlying parts of the Valley can be up to 10°F colder than that at night. Be prepared to cover tender plants if we have some chilly nights.

    Bug and critter talk: With warm weather, expect to see more aphids on vegetables, shrubs, fruit and shade trees. Spritz them with water with a few drops of dish soap added from a spray bottle which can be very effective, especially if they are on your vegetable crops.

    Your seedlings may look like tasty treats to local birds. Cover with chicken wire, or protect young plants with row covers.

    What To Do in March

    Grass

    • Ryegrass should be watered about once or twice a week depending on the weather. Bermuda grass needs water about once a month.
    • Lay down Bermuda sod, if applicable.
    • When nighttime temperatures are above 60 degrees for at least five days in a row,...MORE mow progressively lower to three-fourths inch to encourage spring transition back to Bermuda grass.
    • Mow, hoe or handpick weeds now, or they will be problematic later. In desert rock areas Bermuda grass weeds can be controlled with pre-emergence herbicides.

    Trees/Shrubs

    • Prune back hedges and shrubs that have become overgrown and dense.
    • Fertilize deciduous fruit trees with nitrogen when they leaf out.
    • Thin deciduous fruit to 6-inch spacing. The earlier this is done after fruit set, the more size response will be expected in fruit remaining on the tree.
    • While pruning frost-damaged plants, wait and prune after new growth has started. Prune frost sensitive citrus after mid-March, after they begin to leaf out with new spring growth.
    • Now is the time to plant trees and shrubs, including citrus trees. The earlier you get them in the ground, the more time the plants will have to get their roots established before the hot weather starts sucking the moisture out of the leaves.
    • Two to five-year-old citrus trees transplant most successfully. Larger, older trees are more costly, harder to transplant, and suffer more from transplant shock. It will generally be three years after transplant before fruit production and that is the same whether you plant a 2-year-old tree or a 10-year-old tree.

    Flowers

    • Prepare flower beds for spring gardens.
    • Keep spent blooms from winter annuals picked off.
    • Fertilize flowers with a fertilizer high in nitrogen and phosphorus.

    Vegetables

    • Plant seeds: beans (lima and snap), beets, carrots, corn, cucumbers, jicama, melons (cantaloupe, muskmelon, watermelon), okra, green onions, peanuts, pumpkins, radishes, squash and sunflowers.
    • Plant transplants: artichokes, eggplant, peppers and tomatoes.
    • Place shade cloth over tomatoes to keep leaf hoppers away.
    • Cut back old and dead growth in the herb garden. Herbs to plant are mint, parsley, rosemary, sage and thyme.
    • Prepare your soil for a spring/summer garden. Organic matter, mulch, manure or compost is very important.
    • Fertilize producing vegetable gardens.

    Don't Make These Garden Mistakes in March

    1. When pruning never remove more than 1/4 of the total plant. Always use sharp, sterile, quality pruning tools and disinfect them between cuts to prevent the spread of disease.
    2. Don't cheat on soil preparation for flowers and vegetables.
    3. Don't fertilize dormant Bermuda grass until late April or May.
    4. Don't plant roses with western exposure because of the afternoon summer heat.
    5. Too much fertilizer can cause salt burn and too little can cause nutrient deficiency problems. Water both the day before and immediately after applying granular fertilizers.
    6. Don't fertilize mature trees near the trunk. Fertilize the outer two-thirds of the ground of the leaf canopy where the most active roots are.
    7. Don't water grass at night when the temperatures are coolest as this fosters the growth of fungal diseases.
    8. Don't mow when grass is wet. This also may result in fungal disease.
    9. Don't delay on weed control. Handle weeds while they are young, tender, and their roots are manageable, or before they sprout.
    10. Don't use a pre-emergent in an area where you are going to plant veggies and flowers from seed. It will prevent seeds from germination. It will not affect transplants.
    11. If you are growing a lawn from new seed, don't plant now. Wait until April or May.
  • 04 of 12

    April Garden Chores and Tips

    Melon from the Garden
    ••• Melon from the Garden. Judy Hedding

    April is our transition month in the desert when the temperatures start to get up toward 100°F. If we have had winter/spring showers we'll see beautiful wildflowers all over the Valley. As the weather warms up, you'll have to begin increasing the amount of water. Plants will indicate when they need water by having drooping, wilted leaves. Note the time interval; this will tell you just how many days between watering.

    Bug talk: With warm weather, expect to see more aphids on vegetables, shrubs, fruit and shade trees. Spritz them with water with a few drops of dish soap added from a spray bottle which can be very effective especially if they are on your vegetable crops.

    What To Do in April

    Grass

    • Begin Bermuda grass seeding when nighttime temperatures remain at 65 degrees. Covering with mulch helps keep birds under control.
    • Bermuda over seeded with rye will resume growth when we have 65 degrees nighttime temperatures. You can encourage last year's Bermuda to come out of dormancy...MORE and gradually kill the rye grass by mowing every four days and lowering the blade each time.
    • Mow, hoe or handpick weeds as soon as they appear. In desert rock areas Bermuda grass weeds can be controlled with pre-emergence herbicides.

    Trees/Shrubs

    • Pay special attention to deciduous fruit trees, providing adequate soil moisture for fruit sizing in the late April and May period.
    • Two to five year old citrus trees transplant most successfully. Larger, older trees are more costly, harder to transplant, and suffer more from transplant shock. It will generally be three years after transplant before fruit production and that is the same whether you plant a 2 year old tree or a 10 year old tree. Keep new plantings well watered for two weeks and then lengthen your irrigations out gradually until you are watering once a week.
    • As the weather warms, adjust your irrigation timer to water more frequently. Be sure to run your system long enough to wet the top two feet of soil. Deep, infrequent watering is much better than a daily sprinkle.
    • Tree water use increases rapidly during this period of leafing out and gradually higher air temperatures.
    • Apply nitrogen and zinc to pecan trees to produce normal size leaf growth and to enhance kernel development. Pecans also need more water than most other shade trees.
    • If the normally upright leaves of agaves (century plants) or yucca look wilted, the snout weevil may be the culprit. Apply diazinon granular insecticide.
    • Prickly pear may develop fuzzy patchy scales. Wash them off with a strong jet of water.
    • Saguaros that have black fluid dripping from them need to be treated quickly or you risk losing them. Cut out black tissue back to green flesh tapering the bottom of the wound downward so water will drain out and let the wound air dry or cover with a Bordeaux paste.
    • Prune off yellow and brown fronds and the seed spathes from your palm trees.
    • You can and should remove stakes from all trees staked more then a year ago.

    Flowers

    • Allow your wildflowers to go to seed. They will produce a natural healthy feast for birds as well as reseeding themselves to come up again next year.
    • The second half of April is the time to pull up your geraniums, petunias, snapdragons and plant summer flowers so the roots can establish before the tough heat arrives.
    • Propagate chrysanthemums in April. Divide chrysanthemums to prevent root binding.

    Vegetables

    • Plant seeds: beans (lima & snap), black-eyed peas, carrots, cucumber, jicama, melons, okra, summer squash, green onions, peanuts, radishes, scallions, green beans.
    • Plant transplants: artichokes
    • Place shade cloth over tomatoes to keep bugs away.
    • If you haven't pruned your herb garden, now is the time to do it. For frost damaged herbs, look for new growth emerging on the lower half of the plant. Use sharp shears to cut the plant back by 1/3 to 1/2 or more, down to healthy new side shoots. Add new compost and water well.
    • Fertilize producing vegetable gardens.

    Don't Make These Garden Mistakes in April

    1. Don't prune citrus except to remove dead or damaged wood and branches obstructing pathways, views, or structures.
    2. When pruning never remove more than 1/4 of the total plant. Always use sharp, sterile, quality pruning tools and disinfect them between cuts to prevent the spread of disease.
    3. Don't cheat on soil preparation for flowers and vegetables.
    4. Don't use insecticides on herbs. Most bugs, including aphids, can be handled by spraying with your garden hose. If a plant becomes heavily infested with aphids, just get rid of it.
    5. Don't fertilize dormant Bermuda grass until late April or May.
    6. Too much fertilizer can cause salt burn and too little can cause nutrient deficiency problems. Water both the day before and immediately after applying granular fertilizers.
    7. Don't water grass at night when the temperatures are coolest as this fosters the growth of fungal diseases.
    8. Don't mow when grass is wet. This also may result in fungal disease.
    9. Don't delay on weed control. Handle weeds while they are young, tender, and their roots are manageable, or before they sprout.
    10. Don't use a pre-emergent in an area where you are going to plant veggies and flowers from seed. It will prevent seeds from germination. It will not affect transplants.
    11. If you are growing a lawn from new seed, don't plant seeds now. Wait until May.
    12. Bird holes in saguaros scab naturally; don't try to repair them.
    Continue to 5 of 12 below.
  • 05 of 12

    May Garden Chores and Tips

    Roses
    ••• Roses!. Judy Hedding

    Temperatures rise in May and triple-digit readings on thermometers start to make headlines until they are just too commonplace to mention! The beginning of May might be significantly different than the end of May with respect to your garden. Early in the month, it might still be springtime weather or at least tolerable heat. Toward the end of the month, summer in the desert takes hold.

    What To Do in May

    Grass

    • Plant Bermuda lawns when soil warms up in early May.
    • Fertilize Bermuda grass lawns each month beginning late April or early May.
    • Mow your lawn down to half of an inch until the winter rye grass dies. This encourages new growth and is healthy for the Bermuda lawn.
    • Every few years your lawn will need to be dethatched.
    • When temperatures get regularly to triple digits, daily watering is in order.
    • Water grass early in the morning or at dusk to minimize evaporation of the water during the hot part of the day.

    Trees/Shrubs

    • Plant young citrus trees. Two to five-year-old trees transplant most...MORE successfully. Don't expect fruit for a few years.
    • Pick early-maturing deciduous fruit from citrus trees before the birds get at them. Ripen indoors.
    • Water deciduous fruit trees on 7 to 10-day deep-water cycle for the summer. Resulting fruit will be larger.
    • For newly planted trees, protect trunk from sunburn.
    • Stake newer trees to protect them from summer wind storms.
    • Transplant cactus plants in May.
    • Increase water to shrubs as the weather warms.
    • Don't water the Bougainvillea too much. You'll get bigger leaves and fewer flowers.

    Flowers

    • Fertilize established roses at two-week intervals.
    • Remove petunias, pansies, geraniums. Plant summer flowers, such as Lantana, Vinca, Verbena, Portulaca, Gomphrena purple buddy, and Purslane.
    • Flowers will benefit from a rich soil mixture of compost.

    Vegetables

    • Plant seeds for black-eyed peas, cantaloupe, muskmelon, squash, okra.
    • Plant transplants for Jerusalem artichokes, sweet potatoes
    • Provide shade for tomatoes. Shade cloth with 50% reduction is recommended.
    • Vegetables will benefit from a rich soil mixture of compost.

    Don't Make These Garden Mistakes in May

    1. Do not prune citrus except to remove dead or damaged wood and branches obstructing pathways, views, or structures.
    2. Do not use pre-emergent herbicides in an area where you intend to plant seeds.
    3. Spot treat pest problems.
    4. Don't use spray watering systems in the hottest months in the desert. Drip is better and won't cause leaves, flowers, or vegetables to burn. Don't water the grass during the hotter part of the day.
  • 06 of 12

    June Garden Chores and Tips

    Lantana
    ••• Lantana. Judy Hedding

    June is the driest month of the year in the lower Arizona desert, where Phoenix is located.

    What To Do in June

    Grass

    • Plant your Bermuda lawns if you haven't already.
    • Apply iron to your lawn once per month.
    • If it's time to dethatch, do it during the active growing season, May through August. Dethatch every two or three years to rejuvenate the grass.

    Trees/Shrubs

    • Pick early-maturing deciduous fruit to prevent bird damage, and ripen fruit at room temperature.
    • June is the driest month, so plants may need more water.
    • Apply mulch to the ground around heat sensitive plants keep the roots cooler and prevent evaporation.
    • Apply chelated iron to bottle brush, pyracantha, silk oak, and other plants with iron deficiency symptoms.
    • Heat tolerant plants can be planted right through the summer months. They will need to be watered on a regular basis until fall.
    • Transplant palms, mesquites, palo verdes, and other arid shrubs and trees in the heat of the summer for best results.
    • Prune bougainvillea and lantana...MORE to stimulate growth and blooms.
    • Transplant hibiscus. Fertilize hibiscus and palms with palm tree food and keep watered. For established hibiscus, prune back about one-third of the new growth.

    Flowers

    • Cut back on fertilizing established roses to encourage plants to slow down for the hot summer.
    • Water roses deeply as temperatures rise.
    • Hose off roses in the early morning to increase humidity and control spider mites.
    • Flowers for summer color include celosia, coreopsis, cosmos, gazanias, globe amaranth, portulaca, zinnia, salvia, vinca (periwinkle), gomphrena and verbena.
    • Flowerbeds will need irrigation every other day through the summer.
    • Use ammonium phosphate in flower beds to increase and keep flowers blooming.
    • Pinch chrysanthemums to make them bushy.
    • Stake taller flowers to prevent damage from summer winds.

    Vegetables

    • Plant seeds for cucumbers, squash, cantaloupe, muskmelon
    • Plant transplants: sweet potatoes
    • Keep plants moist. Wilted leaves in the morning are a sign of moisture stress. Late afternoon wilting may be heat stress.
    • Use sunscreens that offer no more than 50% sun reduction.
    • As your melons come in, place a board beneath them. This will keep them off the moist soil and prevent insects from attacking them.
    • Begin harvesting onions and garlic.

    Don't Make These Garden Mistakes in June

    1. Don't over water. Yes, it's very hot in the desert in June, so it might seem like watering more is the answer. Not necessarily true. Water slowly (prevents runoff), deeply (use a soil probe or a long-handled screwdriver to check that the water is penetrating 2-3 ft. deep for trees and shrubs, and 1- 1 1/2 ft. deep for turf & flowers), and infrequently (let the soil dry between watering).
    2. Do not prune citrus during the summer.
    3. Don't shade corn, squash, melons, black-eyed peas, okra, or grapes.
    4. Don't add fertilizer to dry soil. If you apply dry fertilizer on dry soil and water it in, the fertilizer is carried toward the roots as a concentrated solution and will burn them. Always water first, then apply fertilizers to moist soils, and then continue with the rest of the water.
  • 07 of 12

    July Garden Chores and Tips

    Bougainvillea
    ••• Bougainvillea. Judy Hedding

    In July, it's hot, hot hot. You'll be tempted to water everything too much and prune those plants that died. In July, you;ss start planning for the transition to fall, especially if you plant vegetables.

    What To Do in July

    Grass

    • Plant your Bermuda lawns if you haven't already.
    • Fertilize Bermuda grass lawns with 1/2 pound of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet.
    • Apply iron to your lawn once per month.
    • If it's time to dethatch, do it during May through August. Dethatch every two or three years to rejuvenate the grass.

    Trees/Shrubs

    • Pick early-maturing deciduous fruit, which is particularly prone to bird damage. Pick before full maturity. Ripen the fruit at room temperature.
    • Prune palms when flower spathes show or delay pruning until after the palm has finished flowering to prevent infestation of Palm Flower caterpillars. If palms are pruned in the spring, leave the top five rows of peels so the caterpillars have a place to hide.
    • Cut off dead blooms to stimulate rebloom.
    • July is a...MORE good time to plant desert shrubs and trees such as red bird of paradise, fairy duster, and Texas sage. Shrubs and vines such as bougainvillea also may be planted, and these do well in the sun and heat. Be sure to water all new plantings for at least two weeks before you cut back.
    • Bougainvillea will produce more blooms if you reduce the water. They are drought-tolerant. Less water, more blooms.
    • Apply mulch to the ground around heat sensitive plants keep the roots cooler and prevent evaporation.
    • Apply chelated iron to bottle brush, pyracantha, silk oak, and other plants with iron deficiency symptoms.
    • Heat tolerant plants can be planted right through the summer months. They will need to be watered on a regular basis until fall.
    • Transplant palms in the heat of the summer for best results.
    • Protect newly transplanted trees from heavy winds and dust storms by staking.
    • Water mature trees deeply about every two weeks, every week for younger trees.

    Flowers

    • Cut back on fertilizing established roses to encourage plants to slow down for the hot summer.
    • Water roses deeply as temperatures rise. Fertilize roses at half rate every six weeks during the summer. Water deeply both before and after fertilizing to prevent fertilizer burn damage.
    • Hose off roses in the early morning to increase humidity and control spider mites.
    • Flowers for summer color include celosia, coreopsis, cosmos, gazanias, globe amaranth, portulaca, zinnia, salvia, vinca (periwinkle), gomphrena and verbena.
    • Flowerbeds will need irrigation every other day through the summer.
    • Use ammonium phosphate in flower beds to increase and keep flowers blooming.
    • Stake taller flowers to prevent damage from summer winds.
    • Nurseries still have summer flowers, but you will have to water them every day in the morning for about two weeks before you can reduce watering to every other day.

    Vegetables

    • Tomatoes don't do well when it's over 90°F. Nurse the plants through the summer while providing shade and they will begin producing again in the fall. Alternatively, pull them out and plant new ones in the late summer for fall production.
    • Plant seeds for beans (pinto and snap), corn, Armenian cucumbers, melons, pumpkins, winter squash, sunflowers
    • Plant transplants: peppers, tomatoes.
    • Keep plants moist. Wilted leaves in the morning are a sign of moisture stress. Late afternoon wilting may be heat stress.
    • Shade tomatoes, squash, peppers and cucumbers to reduce the heat and help them survive a little longer. Mulch on top of the soil also cools it and helps retain moisture.
    • Use sunscreens that offer no more than 50% sun reduction.
    • As your melons come in, place a board beneath them. This will keep them off the moist soil and prevent insects from attacking them.
    • Solarize vegetable plots. Water the area to be solarized deeply and slowly, then cover with clear plastic, anchoring the edges to contain the moisture. Don't use black plastic. Leave for four weeks. The heat beneath the plastic will be intense, upward 140-150 degrees, cooking many of your gardening problems and weed seeds.

    Don't Do These in July

    1. Don't prune citrus or other sun sensitive plants during the summer
    2. Don't over water. Water slowly, deeply, and infrequently. Let the soil dry between watering.
    3. Don't shade corn, squash, melons.
    4. Don't add fertilizer to dry soil. Always water first, then apply fertilizers to moist soils, and then continue with the rest of the water.
  • 08 of 12

    August Garden Chores and Tips

    Orange Tree
    ••• Orange Tree. Judy Hedding

    What To Do in August

    Grass

    • You can still plant Bermuda grass.
    • Fertilize Bermuda grass lawns with nitrogen according to the directions on the package.
    • Apply Iron one per month according to the directions on the package.
    • Apply one inch of water per week to Bermuda lawns.
    • Raise the mowing height to 2.5 to 3 inches.
    • If your grass needs to be dethatched, you can still do it in August.

    Trees/Shrubs

    • Apply nitrogen fertilizer to fall ripening fruit trees like oranges and tangerines late in the month
    • Apply nitrogen and zinc to pecan trees.
    • Pecans also need more water than most other shade trees.
    • Increase water to trees and shrubs as it gets hotter. Apply mulch to the ground around the base of heat sensitive plants keep the roots cooler and prevent evaporation. Keep the mulch several inches away from the trunk.
    • Apply chelated iron to bottle brush, pyracantha, silk oak, and other plants with iron deficiency symptoms.
    • Cut off spent blooms to stimulate rebloom
    • Native and imported heat tolerant plants can be...MORE planted. They will need to be watered on a regular basis until fall.
    • Transplant palms. Protect newly transplanted trees from heavy winds and dust storms by staking.
    • Late August or early September fertilization will benefit most plants.
    • August is a good time to plant bougainvillea, yellow bells, oleanders, acacias, cassias, eucalyptus, mesquites, and palo verdes. During their first few weeks, they will need daily watering.

    Flowers

    • Cut back on fertilizing established roses
    • Water roses deeply
    • Hose off rose plants in the early morning to increase humidity and control spider mites
    • If roses show yellowing from iron deficiency add an iron supplement
    • You can still plant summer flowers to plant, however, you will have to pull them up and plant the winter flowers during late October, so there's not much time left.

    Vegetables

    • Plant seed for fall vegetables: Snap Beans, Bok Choy, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Chinese Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Collard Greens, Corn, Cucumbers, Kale, Kohlrabi, Lettuce (Head & Leaf) Leeks, Mustard, Green Onions, Summer Squash
    • Transplant tomato plants
    • Prepare flower beds for fall plantings. Irrigate and then cover with clear plastic for six weeks.
    • August is a good time to plant melons.

    Don't Make These Garden Mistakes in August

    1. Don't prune citrus or other sun sensitive plants during the summer.
    2. Don't over water. Yes, it's very hot in the desert in August, so it might seem like watering more is the answer. Not necessarily true. Water slowly (prevents runoff), deeply (use a soil probe or a long-handled screwdriver to check that the water is penetrating 2-3 ft. deep for trees and shrubs, and 1- 1 1/2 ft. deep for turf & flowers), and infrequently (let the soil dry between watering).
    3. Watering at night can lead to fungal disease.
    4. Don't add fertilizer to dry soil. If you apply dry fertilizer on dry soil and water it in, the fertilizer is carried toward the roots as a concentrated solution and will burn them. Always water first, then apply fertilizers to moist soils, and then continue with the rest of the water.
    Continue to 9 of 12 below.
  • 09 of 12

    September Garden Chores and Tips

    Veggies from the Garden
    ••• Veggies from the Garden. Judy Hedding

    September is another transition month in the desert. We feel like the worst of summer heat should be over -- but it isn't.

    What To Do in September

    Grass

    • If you plan to over-seed your Bermuda, stop fertilizing. You'll be over-seeding next month.
    • If you are not planting a winter lawn, add about 10 pounds of Ironite for every 1,000 square feet.

    Trees/Shrubs

    • If you didn’t fertilize your citrus during August do it now. Use ammonium sulfate. This last fertilizing will help make larger fruit. Lemons can be picked as needed later in September even though the fruit is still green. Lemons will not get sweeter, just juicier. Truly ripened limes will turn yellow. This is a good time to get inside your citrus trees, trim out the water sprouts and clean out any dead wood.
    • Continue to deep water on the summer schedule, which is about once a week for shrubs and every two weeks for trees. Water native shrubs every two weeks and native trees once a month.
    • You may begin planting non-frost sensitive trees...MORE and shrubs from containers. Soil temperatures are still warm enough to help roots establish quickly. After planting, water deeply. Dig a planting hole about three times the diameter of the root ball and no deeper.

    Flowers

    • Prepare flower beds just as you would the vegetable plots, but planting of most flowers should be delayed until mid- October.
    • Hose off the rose leaves 1-2 times a week to remove dust, spider mites and potential white flies. Water roses about every three days and apply about five gallons of water to each plant. Prune dead canes and weak top growth, but no heavy pruning.
    • Some bulbs like tulips and hyacinths need to be chilled in a paper sack in the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator for four to six weeks or they won’t bloom.

    Vegetables

    • The most important step to achieving a successful garden in the Valley is soil preparation. Spade the garden beds to a depth of 8-12 inches, turn the soil over, break up clods. For each 100 square feet of garden area add 2 pounds of 16-20-0, ammonium phosphate; 5 pounds of sulfur and 5 pounds of Ironite. Spread 3-6 inches (eight to 10 two-cubic-foot bags) of compost, forest mulch or steer manure. Mix all this together, water it well and when the soil has dried to just moist, you are ready to plant.
    • If you grow onions use gypsum in place of sulfur because sulfur makes onions strong and hot.
    • If your tomatoes and peppers are still alive, trim them back to 18 inches. Remember the root zone is as large as the foliage, so sprinkle one-half cup of ammonium sulfate (21-0-0) and Ironite on moist soil over the entire root zone.
    • As temperatures drop below 100 degrees, seeds of cool-season crops can be planted. These veggies can be directly seeded in the garden later in the month: beets, celery, carrots, chard, endive, peas, green onions, parsnips, lettuce, snap beans, bok choy, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, cucumbers, kale, lettuce, leeks, mustard, radishes, spinach, turnips
    • You can put in transplants of tomatoes, lettuce, strawberries, onions, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, chard, lettuce (head & leaf).

    Don't Make These Garden Mistakes in September

    1. When fertilizing citrus, don't sprinkle the fertilizer next to the trunk, since the roots won't get the benefit there. Fertilize the outer 2/3 of the root area.
    2. Hold off on transplants of broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower until after the end of September or beginning of October. The temperatures must be consistently below 100°F.
    3. Don't over water after transplanting trees and shrubs. Too much water can drown and rot the roots.
  • 10 of 12

    October Garden Chores and Tips

    Cauliflower from the Garden
    ••• Cauliflower from the Garden. Judy Hedding

    Finally, it's fall in the desert. For the most part, the triple digit days are gone for this year. Working in the garden becomes fun again in October.

    What To Do in October

    Grass

    • Apply potassium on Bermuda to help it to come out of dormancy in the spring with greater vigor.
    • Conserve water, and consider not planting a winter lawn.
    • The second week of October to the beginning of November is the average window for planting winter lawns.
    • Perennial Rye will provide a deep green lawn. Mow existing Bermuda lawns to about one-half inch. Sow at the rate of 10 to 15 pounds per l,000 square feet.
    • After initial soaking, water three or four times a day for 3-5 minutes to keep the seeds moist. Keep moist for about two weeks until the seed germinates and then water once a day.
    • You should be able to mow the third week after sowing. Mow 1 1/2 to 2 inches in height and water once a week.

    Trees/Shrubs

    • With the exception of palms, October is the best month for planting trees and shrubs. Dig a hole three times...MORE the size of the root ball. Plant the tree or shrub so the top of the root ball is slightly higher than ground level. Backfill with the native soil, phosphate and Ironite, and twelve fertilizer briquettes - three under the root ball and three in three levels as you backfill. Now you won't have to fertilize for a year. Run the hose in the hole as you backfill to settle the native soil and drive out air pockets.
    • Water newly planted shrubs and trees once per week.
    • Cut back watering of all trees and shrubs by about one-third as weather cools, but continue to water deeply. Don't over water or fungus will grow. For example, if you're watering your citrus every week, stretch this out to every two weeks.
    • Clean dead branches out trees and shrubs.
    • Trim unwanted sprouts from the interior of your citrus trees. This makes it easier to harvest fruit.

    Flowers

    • This is the season for planting flowers, and local nurseries will have plenty.
    • Dianthus, geraniums and petunias bloom continuously.
    • Lobelia (bright blue) and alyssum borders are popular. They come in white, lavender, pink, or Easter bonnet, which is a white-lavender mix.
    • If you want to plant bulbs, plant them the first of November. Freesias and paper white Narcissus will come up year after year without much maintenance, as will Anomie, Crocus, Gladiolus, Iris, or Ranunculus. Hyacinths and Tulips need to be put into a paper sack and chilled in your refrigerator for 4-6 weeks or they probably won't bloom. For a nicer look plant bulbs in groups or clusters instead of rows.
    • Resume full fertilizing of established roses as the weather cools.
    • Keep spent rose blooms pruned.
    • Plant wildflowers now for a late spring exhibition. Mexican gold poppies, California poppies, desert bluebells, desert marigold, desert lupine, arroyo lupine, dyssodia, firewheel, red flax, Mexican hat, spreading fleabane, desert senna, verbena and sunflowers. Water the flower bed daily until the seeds germinate, and once a week thereafter if there is no rain.

    Vegetables

    • Plant your winter vegetables in October, both the leafy kinds and root producers. Plant so that seedlings will be about 1-1/2 inches from one another.
    • Plant from seeds: beets, bok choy, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, card, collard greens, endive, kale, lettuce, leeks, mustard, onions, parsnips, peas, radishes, rutabagas, spinach, turnips
    • Transplants: broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, chard, garlic, lettuce

    Don't Make These Garden Mistakes in October

    1. Don't fertilize established trees and shrubs now. Save fertilizing until February.
    2. Don't water the lawn when it's dark.
    3. Don't dethatch Bermuda in the Fall.
    4. Don't overwater grass. Allow the soil to dry out between watering.
    5. Don't use pre-emergent herbicides where you will be planting seeds.
  • 11 of 12

    November Garden Chores and Tips

    Green Onions!
    ••• Green Onions!. Judy Hedding

    Fall weather is here, and summer cactus blooms give way to flowers and vegetable planting! Cut back on the watering schedule and replace the plants that didn't make it through the summer.

    What To Do in November

    Grass

    • Bermuda should be watered with two to three inches of water each week. Bermuda will become dormant as temperatures drop to below 50 degrees.
    • Dethatch to prevent fungus diseases.
    • Overseeding should have been done by now.
    • Winter ryegrass should be mowed to 1-1/2 to 2 inches. Keep watering until established, and then water only about once a week.
    • Yellowing of the winter lawn may occur when the cold weather sets in. An application of ammonium nitrate will bring back the dark green color.

    Trees/Shrubs

    • Cut back watering of all trees and shrubs, but continue to water deeply. Don't over water or fungus will grow.
    • Plant 3-5 gallon shrubs and 10-15 gallon trees.
    • Clean dead branches out trees and shrubs.
    • Trim unwanted sprouts from the interior of your citrus trees. This makes it easier...MORE to harvest fruit.
    • Keep the skirt of your citrus trees pruned and trimmed to about two or three feet from the ground. This permits a better air flow and minimizes chances of fungus.

    Flowers

    • Plant in full sun: petunias, calendulas, dianthus and snapdragons
    • Plant in part sun or shade: dianthus, geraniums, impatiens, and primrose
    • Plant bulbs in well-drained soil that is also high in compost or organic matter. Your bulbs should be planted with about two inches of sand beneath them. Cover with a coarse material such as peat moss or crushed wood products, such as bark. Plant Amaryllis, Anemone, Calla and Easter Lily, Dutch Crocus, Daffodil, Freesia, Gladiolus, Iris, and Ranunculus. Planting in clusters rather than in rows makes for a nice arrangement. Bulbs should be given a good soaking immediately after planting, and every seven to ten days after growth begins.
    • Keep spent rose blooms pruned.

    Vegetables

    • Now is the time to plant seeds for beets, bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chard, collards, endive, kale, lettuce, mustard, onions, parsley, peas, radishes, rutabaga, spinach, and turnips.
    • Transplants in November include asparagus, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, chard, and lettuce.
    • When you plant any of the many varieties of leaf lettuce you can harvest and the plant will keep growing new leaves. You don't have to pick the whole head of lettuce.
    • Plant strawberries now to get berries next spring.
    • If you planted vegetables in October, thin out seedlings about three to four weeks after germination. Snip them, don't pull them.

    Don't Make These Garden Mistakes in November

    1. Don't forget to check for aphids in the garden. Use soapy water in a spray bottle to control them.
    2. Don't water the lawn when it's dark.
    3. Do not fertilize frost-tender plants such as bottlebrush, bougainvillea, oleander and citrus.
    4. Don't procrastinate about preparing for cold weather. Toward the end of November we can get frost, and your garden will be at risk if you don't cover tender plants, flowers and vegetables.
    5. Don't ignore weeds. Either pull them later, or use pre-emergent now.
  • 12 of 12

    December Garden Chores and Tips

    Mexican Petunia
    ••• Mexican Petunia. Judy Hedding

    You might not think that it ever gets cold in the desert, but it does. Frost is a plant killer!

    What To Do in December

    Prepare for frosts now. If you don't care for your sensitive trees, bushes, flowers and vegetables before the first frost, it's probably too late, since the first frost will permanently damage them. It is not uncommon to have up to 20 frosty mornings in December. Be prepared to cover those frost-tender plants throughout December.

    Grass

    • Your over-seeded winter lawn should be established by now.
    • If your winter lawn turns yellowish, fertilize. An application of Ironite will bring back the dark green color.
    • Water every 5-7 days, or more often if you notice a drying-out of the soil. Light or sandy soils dry out faster.

    Trees/Shrubs

    • Wrap the trunks of young citrus and other cold-tender trees with cloth, cardboard or several layers of newspaper (no plastic) to protect them from frost. Leave them wrapped until the threat of frost has passed.
    • Sweet oranges, navels, lemons,...MORE tangerines and tangelos may now be picked now but pick only as needed. As the season wears on, the fruits will continue to sweeten.
    • Citrus fruit stores best on the tree.
    • Frost-tolerant trees and shrubs may planted this month. Dig holes three to five times the size of the root ball but not any deeper. Set the plant so the top of the root ball is ground level and then backfill.
    • Remove dead branches and water sprouts.

    Christmas Trees

    • When you purchase your tree, try to get a freshly cut tree. Feel the needles for dryness; the needles should be pliable.
    • Cut an inch off the trunk, put it in a stand with a water reservoir and fill it daily.
    • If you buy a living tree, don't bring it inside until about a week before Christmas and take it back outside right after the holiday. After the tree has been outside for a while and is again acclimated to the colder weather, you can plant it or donate it to a school or park.

    Flowers

    • Flowers can still be planted so choose your favorite annuals and perennials.
    • You can still plant bulbs. Plant them in well-drained soil that is also high in compost or organic matter. Your bulbs should be planted with about two inches of sand beneath them. Cover with a coarse material such as peat moss or crushed wood products, such as bark.
    • Chrysanthemums begin to die back after blooming.
    • Cut back dead or dying foliage and add a bit of nitrogen fertilizer.
    • Poinsettias will turn yellow if you water them with the foil sleeve still on because they will sit in the water. Take them to the sink, remove the foil sleeve, water until water comes out the bottom, let them drain for a few minutes and then put the foil sleeve back on.
    • Start getting the new rose catalogs and watch for bare root roses at nurseries later in December. Get your seed catalogs now, too, and start ordering!

    Vegetables

    • Plant seeds: beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, garlic bulbs, green onions, leeks, lettuce, parsley, peas, radishes, swiss chard, spinach and turnips.
    • Asparagus is best planted in a single row.
    • Plant transplants: asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce (head & leaf)

    Don't Make These Garden Mistakes in December

    1. Don't pick grapefruit yet. Grapefruit are the best in late spring.
    2. Don't do any major tree pruning in December.
    3. Don't fertilize trees or shrubs in December. Wait until Spring.
    4. Don't over water.
    5. Don't ignore pest problems.