Southwest Gardener's August Checklist

From the time August arrives, it sometimes seems that summer will last forever. However, the days are gradually becoming shorter, and collapse will be here soon. In the meantime, summer rains and increased humidity are reducing our sexy temperatures for short periods and also helping to water our plants. If you are lucky enough to receive a half an hour or a lot of rain throughout the week, then adjust your irrigation controller to bypass a watering cycle or two.

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The American Southwest is a vast place, covering most of Arizona and New Mexico as well as parts of California, Nevada, Texas and Utah. The regions of the Southwest are diverse and include low deserts, high deserts and mountainous regions, covering USDA zones 5 though 9.

For All U.S. Southwest Desert Regions

Fertilize container plants. Are the container plants appearing tired? To look their best, plants need to be fertilized when grown in containers. Use a slow-release all-purpose fertilizer, which lasts about three weeks, or apply a liquid fertilizer every two weeks. You will be rewarded with bigger plants and more blossoms.

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Enjoy the blossoms of summer-flowering shrubs. With the excess humidity that August attracts, flowering trees such as Texas ranger(Leucophyllum spp)respond by generating masses of purple blossoms. There are several distinct species of Texas ranger, with flower colors ranging from white and pink all the way to deep purple. Blooms look off and on spring through fall.

Revealed: ‘Green Cloud’ Texas Ranger (Leucophyllum frutescens‘Green Cloud’)

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Prune overhanging branches. Summer rains bring high winds. As a result, limb breakage is more common at this time of year. Prevent this from happening to a own trees by pruning back any overhanging branches that have a good deal of weight at the finish.

How to Help Your Trees Weather a Storm

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Spray off cochineal insects out of prickly pear cacti. Perhaps you have seen prickly pear cacti covered in white spots that look like pieces of cotton? Many people assume a fungus creates this cottony mass, but the spots are actually cochineal bugs, a kind of scale insect.

It is simple to eliminate them; just spray them away with a strong jet of water.

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Low Deserts (around 3,000 Feet)

Ensure plants aren’t getting too much water. With the greater humidity and rain the monsoons bring, your drought-tolerant plants may be getting too much water. Signals of overwatering can include yellow, wilting leaves. To avoid this problem, skip watering during weeks of heavy rainfall.

Revealed: Chaparral sage (Salvia clevelandii)

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Start broccoli and cauliflower seeds inside. It’s hard to believe that it’s already time to get ready for the fall vegetable garden. To get a head start, plant broccoli and cauliflower seeds inside, then transplant them out in the garden in fall.

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Mid- to High Deserts (3,000 to 6,000 Feet)

Freshen up flowering perennials such as coneflower(Echinacea purpurea)and rudbeckia by deadheading spent blossoms, which will encourage another flush of bloom in September until they begin to set seed.

Revealed: Purple coneflower

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Watch for signs of iron chlorosis. This time of year, you can frequently see signs of iron deficiency in plants — also called iron chlorosis (shown in this photo). Start looking for light green leaves with dark green veins on the more recent growth.

Heal iron chlorosis with chelated iron, available at the local nursery, after the package directions.

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Plant wildflower seeds today for flowers next spring. Colorful displays of wildflowers are a welcome sign of spring. California poppies, gaillardia, lupine and red flax are only a few kinds of wildflowers that you could plant seeds for today to ensure lovely blossoms in spring.

Before sowing seeds, deeply water that the planting area to a depth of 1 foot. This can help ensure even moisture, which seeds need to germinate. Spread the seeds and lightly rake them into the top inch of soil. Water daily to keep the soil moist (not soggy) until the seeds germinate. Then back watering to every three or four times.

Revealed: Red flax(Linum grandiflorum)

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Plant carrots and radishes. Would you like to enjoy fresh vegetables from the garden before winter arrives? Carrots and radishes are among the easiest vegetables to grow, and you are able to plant the seeds right in the vegetable garden.

Revealed: Radish seedlings

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Upper Elevations (Over 6,000 Feet)

Fertilize grass. Cool-season grass grows most actively at the fall. Fertilizing it toward the end of August can keep your grass green longer into collapse and will allow it to green up more quickly in spring.

Continue watering your lawn every four days. Skip a watering cycle if you get rain.

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Harvest and dry herbs. Preserve the flavors of summer by harvesting herbs such as basil, chives, rosemary, sage and thyme and drying them. Decide on the herbs, tie them with twine and hang them upside down into a dark, dry space. Within a week or two, they will be entirely dry.

Crumble up the leaves, put them in plastic or glass containers, and seal the containers tightly. Store them on your pantry and add the dried herbs into your favourite dishes during the winter.

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Plant spinach and leaf lettuce. There’s still time left to grow new vegetables in the garden this year. Sow seeds today for spinach and leaf lettuce; protect seedlings from harsh sun.

Get ready for September. Fall is the best time of year to add exquisite, fuss-free plants into your garden.

More: Month-by-month guides into the Southwestern garden

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