July is National “Smart Irrigation Month,” so let’s start by talking about water for Southwest plants in summer.
All plants need more water as temperatures rise. Water is critical in the desert, but don’t let your plants become “drip sip” junkies. Instead of a “sip” or a little bit of water every single day, water less often but for longer time, so the water sinks in two or even three feet into the ground – where roots should be growing.
Roots need to encouraged to grow deep underground where it is cooler. Trees need to be encouraged to anchor themselves well, so apply their water well away from the trunk. This also loses less water to evaporation so soils become less salted over time – and besides, you will save money.
When to Water
Water at dawn to conserve water, discourage fungus, and give plants the water they need as they “wake up” for the new day. Plants only need water when they are photosynthesizing in early morning. After about 9 am in summer they generally close down active photosynthesis for most of the day, and just survive the heat.
Plant Nerd Note – When I say plants I mean C-3 and C-4 photosynthetic plants. CAM (Crassulean Acid Metabolism) plants do things slightly differently. For all of these, watering at dawn is still a good idea.
General Things to do in July
If you have lawn and mow it – sharpen your mower blades. Sharp blades cut cleanly and the grass heals more quickly and cleanly from the cuts.
Protect container plants from excessive sun, and/or water them often.
Deadhead flowers for extended bloom.
If you wish, apply pre-emergent weed control before summer monsoon rains.
Summer pruning — none! Prune to remove storm damaged branches. If necessary, prune trees to eliminate hazards to humans or structures, but pruning is better done in spring or fall.
Plant a monsoon garden with native vegetables and herbs like amaranth, short-maturity corn, devil’s claw, epazote, squash and tepary beans. New baby plants will need water every day.
It is not too late to plant non-native heat-loving vegetables like black-eyed peas, squash, okra, pumpkin, and watermelon. We will post a nice recipe using watermelon on Savor the Southwestmaybe even later this week.
Mulch your vegetable garden if you haven’t already. Mulch with straw or pine needles to retard evaporation and fertilize the soil.
Citrus care – well I’ ve been talking about it on my facebook page “Gardening With Soule” – but the post about it that the hackers destroyed will have to go back up later. Just had a bout with a ruptured appendix and friends – it is NO fun.
Harvest sun ripened fruit – Mesquite beans! Plus jujubes, apples, apricots, grapes, melons, peaches — and enjoy.
Learn More about Southwest Gardening
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More about water and irrigating your landscape in this book Month by Month Gardening for Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press). This link is to Amazon and if you buy the book there the Horticulture Therapy non-profit Tierra del Sol Institute will get a few pennies – at no extra cost to you.
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