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Weekly Gardening Tips for Your Area


July 2013 To-Do List: Southwestern Deserts

Susan Wells

desert rain stormMonsoon summer rains may begin in July for most of our region. Take this into account when planning an irrigation schedule. Early morning watering will discourage fungus and conserve water. Fertilize just prior to heavy rains. Distinguish the difference between drought stress and sun stress. Drought stressed plants wilt, turn yellow then brown. Sun stress plants have a burnt look. Protect potted containers from sun. Move them into any available shade. Use shade cloths when you can.  

Vegetables, Herbs and Fruits

•    Check your apples daily and harvest when they ripen to avoid spoilage on the tree.

•    Harvest corn, grapes, and melons this month.

•    Ever wonder how to pick a ripe and ready watermelon? Look for the yellow spots on their underside and brown, dry stems.

•    Continue to plant seeds of black-eyed peas, bush beans, cucumbers, pinto beans, pumpkins, and winter melons for a late fall harvest.

•    When planting seeds, apply a thick top dressing of compost to protect from animals, keep an even soil temperature, and reduce evaporation. In hot months, plant seeds twice as deep as you normally would.

•    Tomatoes will stop producing until the weather cools down. July and August are a good time to cut their height to one foot. This will rejuvenate them to produce a crop that will ripen in September.

•    Look for short season varieties of tomatoes and corn to plant now.

•    Monitor the amount of water your herbs are getting. Most herbs prefer a dry summer but need to get a deep watering at least weekly to remain healthy.

•    During monsoon season, lavender, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, and sage can easily rot in hot, wet soils. Improving drainage will increase the success of your herb bed.


•    The deep pink blooms atop five-foot stalks of native Red Yucca will continue through the fall. This plant is well adapted to most soil types with good drainage. A deep watering, monthly through the summer, will keep this plant looking its best. When the blooms have faded, cut back to the foliage.

•    Another native, Wright Buckwheat, blooms best in full sun after most desert garden flowers have finished. A mass planting can work as a ground cover.

•    Deadhead your annuals and perennials to encourage re-blooming.

•    Do not fertilize or prune your roses this month, except to deadhead. Water your roses every 3 to 5 days, slowly and long enough for the water to soak 16 inches.

•    Except for plants growing in pots, don’t fertilize your perennials in July. For containers, use a liquid fish emulsion or light compost tea.

•    Pinch back mums to encourage bushy growth.

•    Continue to use a strong blast of water from your hose in the morning to add humidity and knock off spider mites.

•    Plant iris rhizomes shallowly in full sun in rich, well-drained soil. (Last season’s irises will begin yellowing and drying out in our hottest of areas.) Do not let your mulch smother the rhizomes.


•    The larvae of the Palo Verde beetle develop underground, living on roots at the bases of a wide range of trees and woody shrubs. Effective treatment is difficult because larval stage lasts up to 5 years. Luckily, these beetles rarely do significant damage to a healthy tree. They can damage trees that have been over-watered and over fertilized.

•    Trees with a large and dense canopy are prone to severe wind damage. To minimize the potential damage, reduce up to 25 percent of the tree’s branches to allow open spaces for the wind to flow through.

•    Prune branches that rub against each other, cutting just above the branch collar.

•    If your trees have suffered storm damage, cut back to the branch collar behind the damaged sections.

•    Fertilize your palm trees with a fertilizer specific to the palms. They need micro-nutrients that most other plants don’t need.  Apply just before the rain rolls in.


•    This is a good time to consider applying a pre-emergent weed killer, prior to a heavy rain.

•    If supplemental watering is necessary, water in the morning, not evening, to prevent fungal disease.

•    De-thatch Bermuda grasses every 2-3 years. (De-thatching removes the build-up of dead material from the base of grass plants. This build-up reduces air flow and water’s effectively reaching the roots. De-thatching reduces the threat of fungal infections.)

•    Change the direction that you mow frequently to avoid ruts and compaction. Keep your blades sharpened.

•    Do not mow wet grass.

Image: Shutterstock/Craigb


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