The Beginnings
A Typical Year in a Phoenix Garden
January February March
April May June
July August September
October November December

December / January

December begins the Arizona Frost season for the Valley. Pay attention to the Frost Warnings given on the local news stations. Get ready to cover your tender plants, have cardboard boxes, cotton type sheets, polystyrene cups and "Frost Guard" cloth on hand to make the job easy. The cups are for the low tips of the cactus that may freeze. Places that are enclosed are likely to trap the cold; frost flows like water down hill so keep courtyard doors open. Also do not let the plants dry out, frost damage results from desiccation of the leaves.

As the solstice approaches the day length shortens so the plant growth lessens. The plants will begin to grow again around the end of January. There is an exception of course; plants you don't want to grow…the Weeds, especially with the past Fall rains.

January is the month I will be pruning the roses everywhere. To get the wonderful blooms it is necessary to cut them back and clean out the damage. January is also the best month to have any extensive pruning done on your large trees. I will advise on the best course of action and assist, upon request. I will continue to maintain everything else as required.

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February /March

Spring will arrive soon and the plants will begin to flourish. I will be feeding in either February or March depending on the location, weather and timing. All citrus will be fed in February, but I will have to wait on any frost tender plants until the possibility of frosts are over, around March 8th for some areas

Spring also brings on the bugs – aphids (greenfly), the mildew (especially on roses), and the weeds.

Around late February / early March I will be pruning back the frost damaged portions of the plants affected by the frost. This will allow the new growth to re-establish the plants beauty.

Spring is the time to replace the plants that died or needs replacing and it is also the time to prepare your vegetable garden and begin to seed / plant for the spring / summer crop.

To those people with Olive Trees now is the time to call your spraying service and get on the list for March spraying to reduce the olives. If you have young or susceptible citrus to sunburn, "White-washing or wrapping will be necessary.

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April / May

During the month of April I will be watching for weak growth, the irrigation systems, and continuing the general up keep of your landscaping. I will also continue to feed the annuals, and apply the Iron treatments where needed. Also during April I will be watching for the weed growth since we did get some rain.

Later in the month is also a good time to replace the winter/spring flowers with ones that will last through the summer, flowers like vinca, gomphrena, celosia, zinnia, marigolds, portulaca, alyssum, etc.

During May, my main concern will be the irrigation systems and generally maintaining the plants. May and June are typically the driest months, so become the hardest on the plants. I will also remove the bulbs and store them for next year. Plus I will feed the citrus again with their second application for the year.

One thing I will ask you to do is during the early evening hours hose off the plants (where practical) to reduce the dust and subsequently the pests that might damage the tender plants – like hibiscus, gardenia, tropical plants, and juniper varieties.

For those with Queen Palms, I have located a supplier for a specialized fertilizer containing the Manganese needed to help correct the yellowing and frond "Frazzle" that occurs in stressed palms.

If there has been a history of infestation by Agave Weevils, prevent reoccurrence by applying diazinon granules to soil around the base of Agaves every two weeks mid May through June.

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June /July

June is typically the driest month of this period. The low humidity is better for us, but not good for the plants. The dry air drains the moisture from the plants sometimes greater than the available water in the soil. The best time to water is early morning 2-3 hours before sunrise. This allows deeper penetration therefore a greater reservoir of water for use by the plant during the day. So watch for wilting during the day, if it doesn't recover after sunset then water and mulching will be needed.

July sees the start of the Monsoons, afternoon winds and possible thundershowers. The greater humidity is beneficial for the plants so the water can be reduced. On the other hand, watch for wind damage to trees. It may be advisable to reduce young trees, Mesquites in particular, to lessen the chance of the wind blowing them down. I also suggest that if your clock requires a battery back-up then change the battery July 1st so your program will be saved in the event of an electrical outage. Every time your power goes out, you will lose your program if your battery is not charged.

In general you may find it helpful to hose off the plants during the early evening hours to wash off the dust and reduce the pests and diseases. It will be better to wait until September before planting or replacing unless you are willing to "Baby-sit" the new plants.

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August /September

August is still monsoon time so continue to watch the strong winds and erosion from the storms. The batteries of the Timer will hold the program for a few hours, but prolonged outages will drain the life. With the increase of natural rains (locally) you should decrease the irrigation accordingly. As a result of the rains the weeds will again grow please spray between my visits to maintain the groomed look desired. This is especially true for my quarterly accounts. Towards the end of the month I will feed the roses to bring them out of the dormant stage of summer. At the end of the month all citrus will be fed for the last time this year. August is also the month to have all large palms trimmed to remove the seed spikes. For those with vegetable gardens; prepare now for late August planting.

September is the time to plan and plant out vegetable and bedding plants. Feeding of all plants will happen this month to encourage growth and flowers. Cut back (lightly) and feed the roses, perennials and any overgrown desert plants. Apply Iron to any yellowing plants from too much water from the summer. By the end of September those with lawns may wish to overseed to keep a green lawn. If the weather dries out and gets hot, watch the water on any new or sensitive plants. Watch for the invasion of the "White flies" from the farmers fields, hose off each morning and if needed, I’ll spray during my visit upon requested.

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October /November

October is the month that the temperatures begin to fall and "Stay down". So I’ll be reprogramming the irrigation clocks accordingly. If you haven't done so, I’ll also remove all summer annuals, and if desired replace with fall/spring color for a nominal fee. Unless that is I have the replacement as part of the "Agreement". Petunias, zinnia’s, marigolds, lobelia, alyssum, pansy, stock, geranium, snaps, Iceland poppy and many more, are the plants of the season.

I’ll continue to feed and deadhead the roses, apply an acid/Iron treatment to gardenias and like plants. If you desire bulbs for spring color purchase the hyacinths and tulips now so you can put them in your refrigerator for four to six weeks to chill sufficiently for activation.

Wildflowers can be seeded during October, preferable after a good long rain.

November is a great time for the plants very few challenges to deal with. It is also a great time to get out and enjoy your garden. I can plant the bulbs you have chilled, replant any annuals that died, stake any annuals that need support, and feed. November is also the time to apply any Pre emergent herbicide to prevent weeds that will be growing from the fall rains.

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December Prep

I know it seems impossible that a frost might actually happen, (sweat still dripping from my brow). Over the years I have lived here, the freezes always take people by surprise. The desert is the "Land of Extremes", and I love it. At the end of the month it will be your choice to prepare your cardboard boxes/sheets/frost guard blankets in preparation of the first frosts, which generally happen during early December. Listen to the news for any frost warnings and be ready to go out in the evening to cover up the frost tender plants. For example; lantana, bougies, natal plum, hibiscus, dwarf oleander, etc. Plants that are up against buildings are less susceptible than in the open. The frost dries out the plant (desiccates) so make sure that they have water, cover if required and perhaps use "twinkle" lights to create some heat. Remove all coverings during the day.