By Harriet Phelps
May Day could be a plea for help in the yard or a fond memory of making a basket for taking cut flowers to surprise the neighbor.
Here in the low desert, it is a time to prepare the garden for the high heat that will hit us in June. Enjoy the beauty of the blooms on cacti, wildflowers in the fields and in your own yards before they wilt.
Temperatures are rising as our gardens are giving up the fruits of the growing period. We are going into this monsoon season, from June to September, under extreme drought conditions from last year. Our area is facing the dryness and low humidity that provides conditions for fire season to start as well.
So, first on the to-do list is to plan the maintenance of existing plants and planting of new ones. Adequate water is the top priority. While we have cooler temps, check your irrigation system for any maintenance needs or decide where you want new plants. During the summer months of May to September, plant groups have varying requirements. New plants need daily watering for the first few weeks and then lengthen the time between as the plants establish.
To fertilize your plants, follow the product label for directions. Remember these dates to fertilize citrus trees: Valentine’s, Mother’s Day and Labor Day, following the product recommendations. Generally, cactus and native desert plants don’t require fertilizer. They are adapted to the soil conditions and nutrients. Should a plant fail to thrive, consult with a professional for a recommendation. For general-purpose fertilizer for cactus, a blend of 20-20-20 at half or weak strength is sufficient.
May to September months is rest time for our area. Our plants may go dormant and slow production until cooler temperatures return. Do not prune plants during the hot season except to remove damaged or dead limbs or leaves. Some plants survive and love the heat; others will fade and die to be replaced next season.
All plants, flowering or vegetable, can decorate your yard in containers. They are low maintenance and can be moved to accommodate conditions during the heat. When planting a container think “thriller,” a plant that is tall and striking in texture or color; “spiller,” a plant that trails over the edges and complements the thriller; and “filler,” a plant that will fill in the spaces of the container.
Enjoy your yard in the cooler moments of the day in May.
Harriet Phelps is a Pinal County Master Gardener.
10 a.m.-2 p.m.
This column appears in the May issue of InMaricopa magazine.