Garden Guru Talks Plant Placement
We continue our gardening series, Garden Guru, as Poe shares that the best time to plan and work in your garden is when the mood strikes you or, even better, right now. When last we met, we discussed soil. It takes some time to get your soil ready for planting. It is also important to know where and when to plant, especially in southern Arizona.
When to Plant: Our hot summers and mild winters shift Tucson’s planting seasons dramatically from the rest of the U.S. Cool season planting and sowing starts generally around the second week of October and grows through April. Warm season planting starts in March and grows through November. Since these seasons overlap, many of us have two plots. We are currently in the warm season, which makes plant placement an even more important point for discussion.
Plant Placement: Forget formal landscaping and the best view from a doorway. Consider the plants’ needs, the season and the sun. What gets planted in the Spring is all too soon exposed to triple digit temperatures. Take pity on them. The “plant in full sun” tag you see when shopping for plants is misleading unless the plant is native to the Sonoran Desert, the Middle East or Mediterranean. Most plants wither under the Sonoran sun unless they have periodic shade in which to recover.
Transplant seedlings an hour or so before sunset. Plants need the night to recover before the sun hits them. Place your warm season garden (March-November) on the east side of a wall or building at least 6 feet high. This way your garden gets morning sun and is shaded from 2 p.m. onward. Place tall or vining plants in the back so that all your plants get an equal opportunity for morning sun. Sensitive plants like herbs, bell peppers and strawberries benefit from being grown on the north side of a taller plant for extra shade. Where to plant can also effect What you plant.
Trellises, Living Walls and Towers: If you don’t have a shade providing fence running north to south near where you want your garden, you can grow one! Place a few fence posts in the ground 4 to 6 feet apart. Run wire or mesh between them and grow vining or tall plants along its length.
There are many options like luffa, Black-eyed Susan or snail vines. There are many varieties of edible walls such as blackberry vines, grapes, amaranth, sunflowers, pomegranate, cucumbers, squash and melons. The last three can be trained to climb a trellis but heavy fruit may need support. Pantyhose work great for this. There are many varieties of corn and beans that are native to our climate. You can plant different varieties of beans and corn should be planted three rows wide to insure cross pollination.
When people ask about vegetable garden options that work for Tucson, Poe highly recommends getting native plant seeds from Native Seeds/SEARCH. They are a non-profit that works to collect, revive and propagate heirloom seeds of our region. The plants they offer are adapted to our environment, flavorful and rare, so you can have extra pride in keeping extinction at bay. Check out their incredible variety and make your shopping list.
Believe it or not, you may also have luck with your seed search at your local library. For example, Pima County Library works with Native Seeds/SEARCH and other organizations to offer a collection of open-pollinated and heirloom seeds that you can borrow. PCPL supports gardeners from beginner to expert. As your local library if they have a seed sharing program.
Naturally Bookmans has a large and varied gardening section to help you get started. Ask us for a recommendation and let us know how it all grows. Next Garden Guru we will discuss more planting options and watering techniques. Great gardens to you!
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