Louise Grabell, Pinal County Master Gardener
It’s hot outside. That’s an understatement, but what did you expect? You live in a desert and don’t forget it! The next 6–8 weeks will be the most difficult time for the plants in your landscape and extra vigilance will mean the difference between life and death…for your plants. May and June are notoriously the hottest and driest months of the year. Actually, they are the driest because they are the hottest. No “April showers brings May flowers” around here!
OK, let’s get started with your work: First and most important, make sure your irrigation timer is properly set for the hot months ahead. It is difficult to give you an exact irrigation setting as each property has its own landscape issues such as microclimates and plant types. The idea is to water as little as possible to keep everything looking good. Once-a-week deep watering [several hours] should work fine for most landscapes. If trees and shrubs are on the same valve, you have to overwater the shrubs to get the water deep enough for the trees. Of course, if you have palo verdes or mesquites, they don’t need watering at all and should not be on your irrigation system.
Second: As long as we are on the topic of irrigation, if you have cactus in containers, they will need to be watered. Cactus don’t wilt, they just shrink. Don’t wait for this to happen. Plan on watering your containerized cacti bi-weekly until the monsoon rains come. Then you are off the hook.
Third: Memorial Day is coming and all you proud citrus tree owners need to fertilize these trees at that time. Unfortunately, there won’t be any rain, so you will have to water-in the fertilizer. This means spending some time to make sure the all the good nutrition you put on the ground soaks into the soil for the roots to absorb. Citrus need this feeding boost now as the tiny fruits are beginning to develop. Citrus do not like over-watering, so water them deeply every week to ten days in the coming hot weather, then back off the irrigation when monsoon season starts. If there is any sign of wilting, then reduce the number of days between watering.
If you are growing those tomatoes I told you to plant two months ago, you should be harvesting them soon. The plants may make it over the summer, but fruit production [tomatoes are fruits] will slow down until the weather cools off. I have a cherry tomato plant from last year that flowered last month and I hope to have some delicious tomatoes shortly. I have to wrap my tomato plant in netting to keep the bats away from the ripening fruits. It’s always something, eh?
Your Master Gardeners invite you to visit their website: http://saddlebrookemastergardeners.org/ for all up-to-date information and events for your community. Garden questions? You can reach our very own Garden Helpline by calling Pat at 407-6459.
Remember, nothing brings more tranquility to the heart than a beautiful garden.