GV Gardeners: Challenges of June in the desert

These blooming roses are heavily mulched and kept well-watered, perfect care for June, National Rose Month.

June is here, and we know its reputation! Daily triple-digit temperatures accompanied by dry winds and lack of anticipated rainfall make June seem endless. This can be a challenging month for plant survival, and special care must be taken in managing water needs and sun protection.

A 2-to-4-inch layer of mulch can help decrease the amount of water that plants need now. It will keep roots cooler, discourage weed growth, and conserve moisture. Mulches in our area are most commonly inorganic such as decomposed granite or crushed rock.

A shower from the garden hose will cool plants and wash away dust and small pests. Be sure to first empty any hot water standing in the hose. Place into a bucket for irrigation after cooling.

Pots containing annuals need daily water in summer. Water in early morning and do so until water drains from the bottom. To prevent wilting, annuals and perennials in the ground will need watering every two to three days, or more often in extreme heat.

June is a time that even cactus, agave, yucca, ocotillo, desert spoon, hesperaloe, and other native plants need supplemental water. Deep soak these succulents once this month. Soaking means watering to a depth of 2 to 3 feet, depending on plant size, in a wide radius around the plant. Measure with a soil probe or a simple piece of rebar sunk into the soil.

Watch for discoloration indicating sunburn on newly planted cactus and succulents. Commercial shade cloth temporarily put over the more vulnerable south and west sides of affected plants is advised. This cloth and staples to hold it in place are available at most area hardware stores and garden centers.

Citrus trees should be watered to a depth of 2 to 3 feet every 7 to 10 days this month. Also watch for sunburn on the trunk of any newly planted trees, and cover with newspaper or a coat of water-based paint if needed.

Normally surviving on rainfall, even native desert trees such as velvet mesquite, palo verde, and ironwood could use a 3-foot deep soak this month.

Roses should be heavily mulched, kept watered deeply, and provided some late day shade if possible. Continue washing off plants early in the morning to keep dust down and help control spider mites.

Now is when we can help our landscape survive the challenge of what is often described as the hottest, windiest, most uncomfortable month of the year. However, it won’t be long until both garden and gardener will experience cooling monsoon season rains accompanied by nitrogen-laden lightning storms and skies full of rolling thunder. Doesn’t that sound delightful?

Mary Kidnocker is a University of Arizona Master Gardener who lives in the Green Valley area. Her articles are featured weekly.

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