By Al Brandenburg
Although we’ve made it through the hot, dry months of June and July, our vegetable gardens have pretty much given up the ghost. Most of my plants look like ancient skeletons on the desert floor.
Gardening and landscaping in August may seem challenging and infuriating. After all, going outside can feel like you’ve just stepped inside an oven. The extreme Arizona heat can be tough on both gardeners and the vegetation they try to keep alive. Cooler days will be here before we know it. But until they arrive, we still need to pay close attention to our garden plants and landscape.
The climate in the Phoenix area can change in minutes. The temperatures are still going to be high, so you will want to apply more water to your landscape and garden. With irrigated systems I suggest 90 minutes in the first half of the month decreasing to 60 minutes in the last two weeks. Do not overwater as you will rot the roots.
With trees, the abundant sunlight in the summer means sunburn is more prevalent. Young trees, particularly citrus, need more protection. Provide protection and prevent sunburn with a protective tree wrap. In addition, the material in our landscape is dealing with the stressors of August. All those high temperatures are causing trees and shrubs to show stress. A good liquid fertilizer will help as long as they are applied at the recommended rate.
If your tree leaves are turning yellow, you’ll want to water less frequently and perhaps add ferrous sulfate or iron chelates. In addition, make sure to check the mulch around your plants. Mulching allows the roots to keep moist and cool. If you notice there is little or no mulch, be sure to put in a 3 to 4-inch layer, which can conserve moisture.
August is the time to start your fall vegetable garden. Plant vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Chinese cabbage, carrots, collards, lettuce and other cool-season vegetables. You will also want to remove any old vegetable plants that have stopped producing to help eliminate pests and diseases from your garden.
For your flowers, cut off spent blooms to stimulate rebloom. Make sure to stay on top of weed removal, and don’t let them go to seed or get tossed into your saved compost. If you notice the soil level has gone down in your plant beds, it means compost in the soil has decomposed and you will need to add more.
Al Brandenburg is a Pinal County master gardener.
Master gardener, 520-374-6263, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.; firstname.lastname@example.org
Sources: cals.arizona.edu, growinginthegarden.com, A&P Nurseries, desertgardencare.com
This column appears in the August issue of InMaricopa magazine.