This blog is about growing tropical-looking plants in the Phoenix, Arizona area

June 1, 2013

Preparing for the summer in the desert

Gardening in the desert is great. It never snows here in the Phoenix area, and the temperatures rarely even get below freezing, and that's only in the dead of winter, in the wee hours of the morning. The low humidity and the clear skies are wonderful for people, and keep any plants that want to stray out of the garden mostly in control. What this means is that a garden is easy to control here. Things only grow where I say, and mostly where I water.

It's June 1st and the desert heat is starting to come on strong. It will stay brutally hot until the end of September, which is when the winter tourists will start to return. That means four months of very extreme temperatures. And really, it's the best time to have a cool-looking oasis in your backyard. In order to do this, this is what you need to do.

Provide shade wherever possible. I bought this house with a garden in mind, so the back yard faces the east. After noon the house shades the backyard completely. There is also a nice big tree in the southern part of the yard, which provides a fair amount of shade even earlier than noon. The shadow doesn't quite extend to the northern edge of the yard, so I have put up a umbrella shade over the outdoor table.

Avoid the garden in the middle of the day. There's an old saying that "Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noon-day sun" so the best way to enjoy a garden in the desert is in the early morning and evening. Twilight is the best here, and the evenings, while warm, are still great if you're a "desert rat" like me. That's why I have the Malibu lights. Ah, there's nothing like the reflection of Malibu lights off of a glass of Stella!

Make sure your automatic watering system is working properly. I did a fair amount of maintenance on my automatic watering system last month, as I don't want to get caught with a problem in the middle of the afternoon in August. If you're thinking that you can water everything with a hose, you're gonna have a bad time. Sorry, it can't be done. By the way, that's artificial turf that Macintosh, the good little wiener dog, is standing on. Don't even think about taking care of real grass when it's over 100 degrees. I had my artificial turf installed seven years ago and it still looks great. Yes, it's perforated so that she can do her "business" on it, and the water goes right through.

Your annual flowers will start to die now, so it's time to clean them up. Remember that the seasons are kind'a backwards here if you're from the east. "Summer annuals" are planted in winter here. If you're tempted to plant annuals now, wait until September.
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