Shady Way Gardens Bits and Briefs May 2001

     Thanks for signing up for our newsletter.  Our goal is to have a selection (or hodgepodge if you will) of interesting information for our various customers; newcomers and novices, as well as collectors and ‘plant people’ (you know who you are!).  We’d also like to encourage anyone to contribute to our Bits & Briefs Observations section.

Attention Newcomers

(i.e. people who have never spent a whole summer here); during May, June & July, before the rainy season (monsoons), which may or may not happen, the heat and sun really turn on.  You will think you live in a blast furnace.  The humidity is very low, the ground is hot, the sun is searing.  Native plants hunker down and usually look half or wholly dead, like plants do in cold winter areas.  Desert adapted plants that are watered regularly and deeply however, will still look good.  For example all types of Bird of Paradise, Ruellia, Fairy Dusters, Yellow Bells, Chuparosa, Mesquites, Etc.


There is no plant you can plant in spring and expect to survive the summer here with no care.  Possible exceptions being larger Saquaros, Chollas, Prickly Pears, Ocotillo


Cactus, Agaves & Yuccas etc. need water in the summer especially newly planted, small growing and non-native species.  Many larger, established cacti can survive with no supplemental water but will often times look yellow, shriveled and unattractive.  A deep soaking 1-3 times a week during rainless periods will help maintain & establish your newly planted & smaller cacti.  Smaller cacti planted in full sun will need temporary shading to look their best during our blazing low humidity months.  Use cloth, shade fabric, old branches or anything else to diffuse the sun’s rays.  Also cacti, succulents & other plants benefit greatly (and look great) tucked under & around rocks & boulders, underneath which the ground is cooler, moister & more root friendly.  South American cacti (Easter Lily, Trichocereus, Notocactus, Gymnocalycium) do their largest bloom show during April & May and sporadically through the summer, though  flowers are much smaller then. To encourage blooms for next year apply a light dose of Superbloom type fertilizer (something with very little nitrogen compared to phosphorous) a couple of times during the summer & in late fall and again in late winter.


Keep citrus evenly watered.  Make sure citrus have good water drainage.  Expect some fruit drop, fertilize lightly after fruits are bigger than a golf ball.  Water well before and after fertilizer application.  It’s is easy to burn your trees with too much fertilizer or shallow watering.  Citrus roots are very near the surface and benefit from surface mulch to cool roots and help preserve moisture.  Paint or wrap trunk of newly planted trees to protect from sunburn.  Don’t expect miracle fruit production from newly panted trees; citrus require patience.  Come and see the cute little hands forming on our fingered Citron or Buddha’s Hand Citron.


Plant Zinnia from seed directly in ground for best results.  Plants from containers (unless young and green) often do not have sufficient root balls to maintain the plant which will become pretty shabby during summer heat.  Also cut off spent flowers before they dry.  Purslane, Gomphrena, Red Leaf Celosia, Blue Salvia Coreopsis, Gaillardia, Rudbeckia, Nierembergia, Vinca are annual type plants most likely to survive summer heat.  Portulaca (Moss Rose) and Marigolds usually poop out during intense heat.  Vinca may or may not rot out during humid July-Sept monsoon season.  Avoid overwatering Vinca – it can actually wilt down pretty severely and still recover.


Summer crops include Squash, Pumpkin, Melons, Peppers, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Cherry Tomatoes.  Some people keep other types of tomatoes going through the summer, but they must have shade from afternoon sun.  Also tomatoes will not set fruits when temperatures stay above 90 degrees day and night.


Something for ‘Herbies’ out there is Conehead Thyme, Coriothymus capitatus, a compact little shrublet which can grow in full sun and has purple flowers in fall.  Leaves are used in Middle Eastern cooking and as one of the ingredients in Zatar.  Conehead Thyme has excellent Bonsai potential as well as do the other upright Thymus thymes.

Plants around Town

See beautiful clumps of Deer Grass (Muhlenbergia rigens) around Safeway at Meridian and Apache Trail.  These grasses need water to remain green and a haircut to 1’ tall in late fall.  Without extra water the clumps become dry and dormant. A look appreciated by a true plant person but by not everyone.

Bits & Briefs Observations

Rabbits like lots of stuff especially anything newly planted.  They especially like newly planted native plants like Fairy Dusters, Mesquites, Mallow.  You can lose many plants in one evening to one rabbit.  The best thing to do is to surround newly planted material immediately with chicken wire, stake with camping stakes or anything that will hold the wire down so the animal will not knock it over or go under the wire.  This can be removed when plants become large enough to hold their own.  You may also try our coyote or bobcat urine as a deterrent.

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Web Comments September 13, 2004 © Shady Way Nursery 2004