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Weekly Gardening Tips for Your Area


Aug. 2013 To-Do List: Southwestern Deserts

Susan Wells

watering the gardenThough the record heat has caused a true decline in the garden, there is much to do in preparing for the fall and winter. We can sow seeds, in containers or in the ground, and have plants when the weather cools next month.  Containers may need water twice a day. Move them into a shaded area if possible. Always water deeply but allow the surface to dry out between waterings.

Weed control now will save doing it in the fall. Be vigilant when you take on removing weedy vines. Dig the root out if a weed control product fails. Water newly planted seeds and transplants more frequently than established vegetation. Because of the real danger of fires, clean and remove debris from roofs and grounds near structures. Keep the area around your home well irrigated and pruned. Consider replacing wood mulches with stone products.

Vegetables / Fruits

•    If cut back now, tomatoes will provide a new flush of fruit before cold weather. Leave only 1/3 of the stem, with a few side branches and leaves.

•    Once you have harvested your apples, figs, grapes and peaches, you can reduce your watering, but do not stop altogether. The trees will continue to grow.

•    Windfall fruit will attract a number of insects, raccoons and other pests. It is best to remove it as soon as you can.

•    Irrigate your citrus. Do not let new fresh growth wilt between showers.

•    Continue to sow beans, corn, cucumbers and squash. (The best variety of cucumbers for the desert is Armenian cucumber.)

•    Don’t let your pole beans dry on the vines and scatter seeds in the garden. This will slow flowering and bean production (which should continue to November). 


•    Continue to plant perennial seeds and salvias. As the weather is still very hot, do not disturb the roots of the salvia, if possible, when planting. Water deeply, then mulch.

•    When you see vigorous new growth at the base of your perennials, cut the plants back to the base to help the flush of new growth.

•    Deadhead all flowers regularly.

•    Spider mites thrive in late summer. Try a strong blast from a garden hose on both sides of the leaves to knock them off.
Trees / Shrubs

•    Keep in mind the immense value a shade tree adds beyond curb appeal. With the correct tree choice and placement, you may eventually see a drop in energy bills. Plan for fall planting and order trees now.

•    August is the last month of the year for palm tree planting. The warm weather is necessary for them to become established before cooler weather rolls in.

•    Oaks and pines are often affected by iron deficiencies, indicated by yellowing leaves/needles. This is most visible on new growth. Treating with chelated iron now will not stimulate new growth but will help with the problem.


•    Given the heat and drought, all but the hardiest hot weather grasses are dormant now. Leave them be. They will come back when the temperatures cool off.

•    Consider replacing your water-hogging lawn with a desert-friendly alternative, such as native grasses or desert plantings of succulents or cacti. Try to mimic the natural landscape. Use stones and native groundcovers.

Image: SS/Repina Valeriya

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