If you like to grow tomatoes AND you live in the desert, then you know how important it is to shade your tomato plants during the summer months.
Most vegetable gardeners haul out 50% shade cloth, which does a great job at shading tomatoes and protecting them from the intense desert sun.
Personally, I don’t particularly like how shade cloth looks. As a horticulturist and landscape designer – I like gardens to look beautiful and that extends to vegetable gardens.
So instead of putting up shade cloth over my tomato plants this year, I decided to create natural shade for them.
The cold weather has arrived in my neck of the woods with even colder temperatures on their way later this week.
When temperatures dip below 32 degrees, you will find me wearing warm socks, slippers, a sweater, and cardigan when I’m indoors. But, besides me – frost-tender plants are also affected by the cold temperatures.
Have you ever wondered why your plant’s leaves turn brown and crispy after a freeze? Well, ice crystals form on the top of the leaves, which ‘sucks’ out the moisture from the leaf, leaving it brown and crispy.
|My neighbor made things worse by using plastic as a covering for his citrus trees.|
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Last winter, I was enjoying a rare moment of peace….no kids or husband in the house, the garden didn’t need any attention and no articles to write. So, I decided to see what was on television. As I was channel surfing, I saw a gardening show and of course, I stopped and watched.
What I saw was the host and featured garden expert, showing how to grow vegetables and flowers together in containers. Since I love both vegetables and flowers, I was intrigued. So I bought the book written by the featured garden expert and got started.
I found nice plastic containers on sale along with some tiny trellises, as well as planting mix (NOT potting soil, which gets too soggy for container plants).
Planting mix is specially formulated for containers – it has a light texture and holds just the right amount of moisture for plants.
Then, I started planting. I came up with the vegetable and flower combinations on my own and I must admit that I was happy how they turned out…
The first container has purple violas, spinach, bell pepper plant and nasturtiums. I started all of these from transplants, except for the nasturtiums, which came from seed that I planted.
I have been picking off sugar snap peas every time I am in the garden and eating them on the spot.
Lately, I have been collecting toilet paper rolls. Now I know that may sound a bit weird to some of you, but I needed them for my garden.
So how on earth can toilet paper rolls help you in the garden?
Well, they are an inexpensive, environmentally friendly tool in which to start seeds indoors.
|From upper right – bush beans, marigolds, Kentucky beans, cucumbers, sugar snap peas and spinach.|
Every day, we checked the moisture of each toilet paper roll and added more water if necessary.
**Are you new to vegetable gardening in the desert? We are fortunate that we can grow a large variety of vegetables, as well as fruit. I invite you to click the ‘Shop’ tab where you’ll find some great information on growing vegetables.
One of the things that I love about gardening in the desert is how many beautiful plants that can not just survive our arid climate, but thrive in it.
Besides our native desert plants, many tropical plants also do very well here due to our relatively mild winter in our semi-tropical climate. Quite a few of these plants are native to Mexico.
If you love the shape of water as it cascades from a fountain and the bright colors of coral, then you definitely want to include coral fountain (Russelia equisetiformis) in your garden.
Aren’t the flowers just so beautiful?
I am faced with a wonderful dilemma……
My last post dealt with the loss of one of our beautiful ‘Desert Museum’ palo verde trees. So now we are faced with the question of which type of tree should we choose to replace the one that I lost? We worked hard the past couple of days to remove the fallen tree and now have a bare space to fill.
I have lived in my home (and garden) for over ten years. As our houseome was being built, we designed the surrounding garden. I enjoyed deciding which trees I would choose to grace our desert garden with not only beauty but shade in the summer months. I honestly do not understand people who don’t plant trees in the garden – especially in desert climates. They not only provide wonderful shade in the summer months but also add a lot of value to your property.
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Although found in other areas of the United States, it is also native to the southwest. The mature size is approximately 25 feet high and wide. In areas with mild winters, the leaves will remain on the tree. Dark brown seedpods are produced once flowering has finished.
Some of you may be surprised to know that many of our trees and shrubs are grown in our arid climate are native to Australia. The bottle tree is one of them. First of all, I love the shape of the leaves and how the sun reflects off of them in a gentle breeze. I also like the slightly pendulous way that the branches hang down. Evergreen in areas with mild winters and a smooth trunk make it an asset in the garden. Its mature size of 30 – 45 feet high and 30 feet wide, makes it suitable for narrower spaces.
The pods themselves are quite cool looking, and my mother would use them in making wreaths out of seedpods. But what I most remember about the seedpods is getting some of the ‘fuzz’ from the inside stuck on my bare feet, and it hurt. I think that is maybe why I do not have this tree in my garden. But, many people I know who have a bottle tree love them.
Olive trees are also an option. Most are multi-trunk with beautiful olive green leaves. They are evergreen and thornless. Regular fruiting olives are no longer sold in many cities due to their highly allergenic pollen. Thankfully, there is a non-fruiting cultivar called ‘Swan Hill,’ which is available.
Reaching a mature size of 20 – 30 feet high and wide, olive trees make excellent shade trees and are slow-growing. Some olive trees have fallen prey to some creative pruning.
Texas ebony is an excellent choice for those who like a dense, dark green canopy of leaves. Native to both Texas and Mexico, this tree does very well in the Arizona desert. Everything about this tree is dark – the green leaves the dark brown trunk.
This evergreen tree, has thorns and large brown seedpods. Texas ebony grows slowly to about 15 – 30 feet high and 15 – 20 feet wide.
This is a favorite tree with my clients, but again, I am looking for a tree that grows more quickly.
An excellent tree for those who like lush, green trees that lose their leaves in winter. Chinese pistache grows to 25 – 25 feet high and wide and has some welcome surprises.
It is one of the few trees in our area that produces a rich fall color. Female trees produce clusters of little berries in the fall.
The first flowers of the season begin to open. I bought my first one on a field trip with my Plant Identification college class to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum. I brought it home and planted it in a container because we were renting a house at the time, waiting for our new home to be built. Later, I planted it in our front garden, and I look forward to the beautiful yellow flowers in the fall.
Annual Vinca (Catharanthus roseus)
One of my favorite summer annuals is vinca.
Stop by any nursery this time of year, and you will find flats full of their vibrant blooms, and there are many different colors available.
From purples and pinks to bright reds.
Now some of you may have had the experience of growing beautiful vinca one year and the next year; you have a terrible time with them. Shortly after planting you notice your vinca beginning to wilt, and no amount of water seems to help.
As I was walking along a desert nature trail, I came upon this unusual feature. To be honest, I was surprised by its presence. But then I got to thinking, don’t live things, or those things that were formerly alive belong in a garden?
What do you think it is? Need some clues? Here are the first ones:
I was once part of a beautiful semi-tropical forest near the equator…
My current location is quite a ways north of the equator, although I never left the land I origin from…
Volcanoes, wind, and water helped to create what I am today…
Much of my color comes from iron…
You can find me in many different areas of the world, (Denmark, Mexico, China, New Zealand, and Indonesia), my home has always been in the land that makes up Arizona…
Have you figured it out?
Here is the answer…
Over 200 million years ago, Arizona was close to the equator, and the climate was much more humid, hence the presence of a sub-tropical forest that the trees originated from, before being transformed into petrified wood.
I came upon these beautiful specimens while I was walking along the Nature Walk, which is located next to the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona. These specimens were brought here from the Petrified Forest National Park, which is in north-eastern Arizona in the Painted Desert.
More information about petrified wood and their origins can be found here at Petrified Forest National Park.