August in a Desert Garden
Summer is almost over! The planting season starts September 15th! This is not the month to tackle any big garden tasks. Let your garden rest and take care of itself. Except for irrigation, pay attention to your irrigation. By mid-September there will be a noticeable difference in the length of the days. Even though it will still be hot, it won't be hot for as long. We just need patience now.
Topics covered: Planting, Pruning, Flowering, Vegetables, Irrigation, Pests, Weeds, and Fertilizer
In the desert, we do major pruning in October so you shouldn't be doing any major pruning this month. You always want to be looking at your plants though and only trimming problem areas. Is there a branch in your pathway or do you have a dead branch that needs to be taken out? This keeps you from having to do as much later and corrects issues before they become major problems. If you are having to regularly prune your plants you should take a look at why. Trees should not need to be pruned yearly. Shrubs left in their natural shape only need an occasional snip here or there. Are you watering too much? Is the plant in the wrong place? And most importantly, you want to always check for nesting animals before you prune!
By the end of this month, our plants are starting to show the effects of the summer heat. Native plants are going to fare better than others.
By now I leave all of my spent blooms as seeds for wildlife and allow them to drop naturally for reseeding.
Our planting season begins in September/October and ends in about March or April. Planting in the fall our plants have lots of time to establish themselves before the heat of summer hits. Up to 80% of the yearly root growth occurs in the fall when the days are shorter and the temperatures are cooler. The later in the year we plant the more water we need to use to establish them and the more care they need. Plants need at least 6-8 weeks to reestablish their roots before the extreme heat of summer hits.
Review your irrigation system.
Increase water to accommodate warmer temperatures. Water deeply but infrequently to prevent plants from becoming overgrown, floppy, or subject to rot. Remember, desert natives, want to have deep waterings and then dry out in between.
If you leave for the summer, make sure to check your irrigation system before you go for leaks, clogged emitters, etc.
Refresh the water basins and mulch around your trees and plants before the summer heat.
Monitor irrigation systems closely. Failure this time of year can be catastrophic without quick intervention.
Pests, Weeds, and Fertilizer
PESTS: prevention is the best method for a pest-free garden.
Drip irrigation, watering the plants from below rather than spraying the leaves helps prevent disease keeping the plant healthy. Make sure to water deeply but infrequently. Allow your native plants to dry out between waterings. Waterlogged roots equal unhealthy plants. Healthy plants equal fewer pests!
WEEDS: don't put off weeding! Regular maintenance prevents spread.
The heat and longer days promote growth.
Spurge weed, (Euphorbia maculata) is popping up now that the weather is warm. Once you have an infestation of this it is difficult to get rid of it. Hand pulling, making sure to remove the tap root, and the use of thick mulch to starve the seedlings of light are the most effective removal methods in my experience. Use gloves when handling spurge. The milky sap can cause irritation in some people.
FERTILIZE: Fertilizing in the summer is not recommended.
Plan your vegetable garden and be ready for planting at the beginning of September!