Summer in the Desert Means Keeping Plants Cool, Too

5301164280_5640382788_o_smallIn Southern Arizona landscaping, fall is spring (for planting) and winter is in the refrigerator (for bulbs). Spring is for wondering when summer will start, so what is summer?

For your garden and landscape, it’s time to keep up your spirits and your maintenance.


Just like you, your plants need more water in hot weather. Proper irrigation keeps plants healthy and saves water. Some key principles for doing both:

  • Soak deeply; water from sprinklers will evaporate quickly.
  • Water before your plants show signs of stress such as wilting, burning or dryness. Run the hose a minute to get hot water out before watering the plants.
  • Water earlier and more often.  Starting now, set your irrigation system to come on at 4 or 5 a.m. Adjust the length of watering as the temperature rises.
  • Water new plants up to three times a week, till they’re established. Native plants, including trees, cacti, succulents and wildflowers, need a long bath every three or four weeks.  
  • Daily watering is good for lawns, vegetables, annuals and warm season grasses. You can monitor soil dampness with a garden moisture monitor or a pencil stuck into the ground.  
  • Summer monsoons don’t replace irrigation. Much of the water evaporates.
  • Mulch – gravel or compost or ground bark –applied 3 inches deep over  the root zone of plants cools the soil, retains moisture and discourages weeds.

Pests & Maintenance

  • Spot-treat pest problems rather than spraying the entire garden.  Squash vine borers, grubs, cactus longhorn beetles and agave snout weevils are common in warm weather.
  • A pre-emergent weed treatment will stop new growth for about six months. For weeds already growing, get out your kneepads and dig them up.
  • In May you can plant cacti, succulents, warm season annuals like African daisies, gazanias and ornamental peppers.  But after this month, hold off on planting till fall; young root systems can’t handle the heat.
  • Eliminate spots where water can collect to stop mosquitoes during monsoons. .
  • Fertilize citrus, fruit trees, roses, and lawns in late May. Dethatch any lawn buildups with tools from your garden center.  
  • To prepare for the lawn’s summer growth, fertilize with ammonium sulfate, and water before and after. Lawns can use daily watering, or consider a low-water ground cover instead.
  • Protect yourself from the sun. Work outdoors in early morning or late evening; wear a hat, gloves, and sleeves. Apply sunscreen and drink plenty of water.

For more questions and comments check out the landscape companies on!

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