Wednesday, June 24, 2009

July Groundwork

July is typically one the hottest months of the year with average temperatures hovering around 105 .9 degrees in the beautiful Phoenix area. Here's a gardening check list.

  • Check plants for water stress, increase the frequency of water, and make sure you water slowly and deeply to flush the salts below the root system.
  • Harvest herbs during cooler morning hours and deadhead flowers to keep herbs from becoming stringy or woody. Dry some of your herbs for use later in the year.
  • Protect tomatoes and peppers with shade cloth and place extra layers of mulch, compost or straw around the plants to conserve moisture and lower soil temperatures.
  • Support plants and place straw under developing melons, tomatoes and strawberries.
  • Pick any citrus that might remain on trees, and paint trunks of young trees to prevent sun burn and cracking.
  • With our high temperatures and drying winds, make sure to keep your compost piles moist so microorganisms will continue to decompose the materials. If open, you might cover with plastic or a tarp until monsoons arrive.
  • Vegetables that thrive in our desert heat are eggplant, basil, sweet potatoes, armenian cucumbers and okra. You can plant seeds of pinto beans, snap beans, corn, cantaloupe, muskmelon, pumpkins, winter squash and armenian cucumber. Keep a close eye on all new seedlings, they must be kept moist until established.
For added interest and beauty, you can still sew seeds for cosmos, four o' clocks and sunflowers.
Sunflowers are not only great for color and beauty, the seeds are highly nutritious and are rich in oils and minerals. You can easily grow enough sunflowers in your garden to produce snack seeds for your family. One variety used for producing hundreds of seeds is the Russian Giant or the Mammoth. Once the flower has died back and the seed head begins to droop, cut the stem leaving a few inches to tie it up. Hang it in a dry place, not in direct sunlight and tie a paper bag around the seed head to catch the seeds as they dry. Poke a few wholes in the bag to allow air circulation. When you have collected enough seeds, spread them on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and a little oil. Bake in a warm oven for 30 to 40 minutes. Let them cool and store in an airtight container. Relax under a tree in the late afternoon and watch the sun go down.

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