By Al Brandenburg
Another year and again I am watching my plants wither in the 100-degree-plus heat. Gardening in Arizona in July can be difficult indeed, but it can be done. Planting the right plants in the right location at the right time and watering them correctly is critical for success. Now going forward:
July To-Do List:
- Fertilize sweet potatoes with a balanced fertilizer.
- Clear out squash and other plants that have stopped producing or are showing signs of heat stress and disease.
- Don’t prune or fertilize most plants. Most are in summer dormancy to survive. Pruning can expose new parts of a plant to sunlight damage, and fertilizing can cause stress in plants as well.
- Water evenly. Hopefully the monsoon humidity and added moisture comes to us this month. A rain gauge is helpful to see how much rain you’ve received. If you measure 0.5 inches of rain, turn off your water timers. You can also insert a screwdriver into grass or rocks to determine whether to water. If it passes easily into the soil, you can wait a day or two to water.
What to plant in July:
- Pepper, tomatillo and tomato transplants at the end of the month or beginning of August
- Snap beans in the middle of the month
- Carrots at the end of the month or beginning of August
- You can also plant Armenian cucumbers, shallots, pumpkin, corn, winter squash, black-eyed peas, pinto beans, tepary beans and a final planting of yard-long beans or cantaloupe for the year.
- Flowers that can be planted this month: orange cosmos, globe amaranth, kochia, vinca, purslane, zinnias and sunflowers.
Several varieties of peppers are producing in the garden this month. Serrano peppers take the heat well. Bell peppers can get sunburned if fruits get direct sun; provide some shade if scalding is a problem.
Also the last of the tomatoes on the vine have ripened. It is too hot for pollen to be viable for new tomatoes to develop. As temps cool, you will start getting fruit again.
Cucumbers do best on a trellis, with even watering and mulching with compost. Pick cucumbers young and pick them often to encourage production. Production slows or even stops this month as temperatures heat up.
As far as herbs are concerned, rosemary is doing great and doesn’t mind the heat. It’s best not to prune it this month, but you can harvest it as needed for recipes.
Then there’s my favorite; basil is the champion herb of summer. Be sure to keep it pruned and try different varieties to mix things up.
Good luck and stay cool.
Al Brandenburg is a Pinal County Master Gardener.
This column appears in the July issue of InMaricopa.