How does your garden grow?

Louise Grabell

I have been a Master Gardener for Pinal County (under the auspices of the University of Arizona) since 2005 and recently decided to step away from the formal program. However, I must tell you that this has been one of the more rewarding activities of my retirement years. I began writing this column in 2008 and have never seemed to run out of topics to share with you. Gardening knowledge is encyclopedic (is that a word?). That’s 12 x 11 articles of immense interest over the years. While I do know a lot about gardening in the high desert, there is always much more to learn.

Becoming a Master Gardener is not easy. First, you have to take the University of Arizona’s 15-week course; second, you have to contribute volunteer hours helping your friends and neighbors with their gardening problems; and third, you have to attend monthly meetings with other SaddleBrooke and SaddleBrooke Ranch Master Gardeners.

It took many years of hard work to get the word out that there is help onsite for all your gardening issues—from irrigation, to growing flowers, to the kinds of trees and shrubs that are appropriate for your estate. Thankfully, we are now famous! All those years spreading thousands of fliers throughout the community have paid off. You can call us directly. At the end of an article, I always give the phone number for our onsite garden helpline that will connect you with a Master Gardener and, perhaps, arrange for you to have a visit from one of us to give you advice that is particular for your property and plants.

I am telling you all this because, first, I am very proud of our Master Gardeners; and second, I’d like some of you to become one, too. The fall and winter Master Gardener training course begins on Nov. 7. You will learn more than you ever thought possible about high desert gardening, and then you can write a gardening article, too!

Speaking of gardening, keep your eye out for chrysanthemums and amaryllis to brighten your Thanksgiving and Christmas décor, and then plant them outside (with irrigation) for perpetual blooms in the future. Look for cool-weather plants like geraniums, snapdragons, and pansies for containers, as well as those gorgeous decorative cabbages, and so on. But, please keep in mind that if you plant any of these beauties in unprotected areas, our local bunnies and javelinas will consider them a salad buffet!

Citrus will start to ripen soon with lemons being the first. Google “Arizona Sunshine Lemon Pie,” and you will thank me! Grapefruits should be next, but I would taste one before harvesting. The ripening of oranges depends on the variety. Arizona sweets should be good by December or January. Prune back your lantanas (but nothing else until I give you permission!).

Master Gardeners invite you to visit their website at for all the up-to-date information and events for your community. Garden questions? You can reach our very own Garden Helpline by calling Pat at 520-407-6459.

Remember, nothing brings more tranquility to the heart than a beautiful garden.