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Okay, correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t it October 1st just a few days ago? It’s hard to believe that November is already here. You know what that means – Christmas is just around the corner.

Last month was a busy one in the garden.  While there are not as many tasks to be done in November, there are still a few things to do.

Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua)
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Continue planting cold-tolerant trees, shrubs, and perennials.  These include Angelita Daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis), Blue Bells (Eremophila hygrophana), Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua), Pink Fairy Duster (Calliandra eriophylla), and Valentine Bush (Eremophila maculata).  All of these plants do well in full sun.

Wait until spring to tropical flowering plants such as Lantana, Bougainvillea, and Yellow Bells since these frost-tender young plants are more likely to suffer damage from winter temperatures.
 
Chaparral Sage (Salvia clevelandii)
 
Other shrubs to consider planting now include Chaparral Sage (Salvia clevelandii) and Mexican Honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera). Each of these do well in an area that receives filtered sun.
Mexican Honeysuckle (Justicia mexicana)
 
Mexican Honeysuckle is one of my favorites because it thrives in light shade, is frost-tolerant AND flowers much of the year.
 
Snapdragon Penstemon (Penstemon palmeri)
 
Perennials are a great way to add color to the landscape and Penstemons are some of my favorites.  Parry’s and Firecracker Penstemons are seen in many beautiful landscapes, but there is another that I love. Snapdragon Penstemon (Penstemon palmeri) is not often seen but is stunning. It grows up to 4 ft. tall blooms in spring and its flowers are fragrant.
 
It’s not always easy to find but is well worth the effort. Use it in an area that gets some relief from the afternoon sun.
 
‘Regal Mist’ (Muhlenbergia capillaris ‘Regal Mist’)
You may have seen this colorful ornamental grass blooming this fall. Pink Muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris) is a lovely green, ornamental grass in spring and summer. Once cooler temperatures arrive, it undergoes a magical transformation.  Burgundy plumes appear in fall, turning this grass into a show-stopper.
 
‘Regal Mist’ in winter.
In winter, the burgundy plumes fade to an attractive wheat color.
 
 
There is still time to sow wildflower seed for a beautiful spring display. My favorites are California Poppies, California Blue Bells, and Red Flax.
 
My edible garden is usually filled with delicious things to eat in fall.
Herbs are easy to grow and most will thrive throughout the winter. The one exception is Basil, which will die once temperatures dip below freezing. Harvest your basil before the first frost arrives. You can dry it and put it into spice jars or freeze it into ice cubes.
 
 
Thin vegetable seedlings. This is easiest to do using scissors and snipping them off at the soil line so that you don’t disturb the roots of the remaining seedlings.
 
Check your seed packet to determine how far apart the seedlings should be.
 
 
Many vegetables can be planted in November. Leafy greens like bok choy, lettuce, kale, mustard greens, and Swiss chard can be added. Sow carrots and radishes.
 
 
I am so happy to be able to make salads from my own garden again instead of relying on a salad from a bag.
 
 
If you haven’t done so yet, this is the last month to plant garlic in your garden. It is easy to grow, and I grab a few heads of garlic from the grocery store to plant.
 
Broccoli and cauliflower transplants can still be added to the garden this month. Onions, peas, and turnips can also be planted in November.  
 
If you haven’t already done so, adjust your irrigation schedule to water less frequently then you did in the summer months. More plants die from over-watering than under-watering, even in the desert Southwest.
 
I find that monthly gardening task lists keep me on track in the garden. This book is a great resource for Arizona gardeners:
*What will you be doing in your garden this month?

Freezing temperatures are coming tonight and forecast to last for the next several days.


Take a drive down the street in your neighborhood, you will probably see landscape plants covered with assorted sheets, towels or frost cloth.


Those that don’t protect their frost-sensitive plants such as lantana, bougainvillea, yellow bells, orange jubilee or hibiscus will soon have plants that look like this…


In most cases, you do not have to cover your frost-sensitive plants when temps dip into the lower 30’s.  

There is nothing wrong with allowing the top growth of your ornamental plants to get frost damage.  You just prune it away in spring.

For those of you who don’t like the look of frost-damage, then you will need to protect your plants from the cold.

**If temperatures are predicted to dip into the 20’s – then I do recommend protecting them from frost because temps this cold can kill a plant.  

I wrote a blog post earlier this year when temps hit the low 20’s.  It talks about how to protect plants from frost (and how NOT to) along with the types of plants to protect.

You can read it here…


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I hope you are having a great week.  I must confess to being a little behind on writing blog posts this month with all the Christmas goings on 🙂

October is my favorite month of the year in the garden.  Summer is over and when I walk outdoors, I am greeted with delightful temperatures in the 80’s.  I even had to wear a light sweater the other night when out walking the dogs with my husband 🙂


Planting shrubs in the parking lot of our church along with the boy scouts a few years ago.
This is a very busy month in the garden because the end of summer signals the beginning of planting season.  October is the best time to add plants to your landscape because they have three seasons to grow roots, which will help them handle the stress of next summer.

When digging a hole for your plants, the hole can make a huge difference in how successful your plants will be.  Make the hole 3 times wider then the rootball.  Because roots grow mostly sideways, they will have an easier time growing through recently dug soil then hard-packed soil.  The depth of the hole should be NO deeper then the rootball.  When plants are planted too deeply, they can suffocate or become waterlogged.

So, what types of plants can you add now?  Concentrate on trees, shrubs and perennials that are not frost tender.

Firecracker Penstemon (Penstemon eatoni), blooms in late winter and into spring in my zone 9a garden.

Some of my favorite plants in my garden are those that bloom in fall, winter or spring.

Damianita (Chrysactinia mexicana), blooms in spring and fall.

Pink Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii ‘Pink’), blooms fall, winter and spring and prefers partial shade.

Valentine (Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine), is my FAVORITE shrub.  I starts blooming in January and lasts until April when there is not much else going on in my garden.
When shopping for arid-adapted plants for your landscape, be aware that most of them aren’t too impressive looking when seen at the nursery.

Angelita Daisy in the nursery.

Arid-adapted plants don’t really start concentrating on their top growth UNTIL they have grown a good amount of roots.

Angelita Daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis, formerly Hymenoxys acaulis)
As you can see, there is a pretty significant difference after these Angelita Daisies have been in the ground for a couple of years.

Scarlet Flax

Do you like wildflowers?  For a beautiful spring display, October is the time to spread wildflower seed.  Growing your own wildflowers is easy to do, but there are a few important guidelines to follow.  You can read more about how to start your own wildflowers from seed here.


If you enjoy growing vegetables, then it is time to get started planting cool-season vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, garlic, leaf lettuce and radishes – just to name a few.


I amend my soil with 3 inches compost, 2 inches composted steer manure, blood meal and bone meal (following the directions on the package on how much to apply).  Lightly cultivate, mixing your new amendments into the soil.

Our little puppy, Penny, is growing up!
*Beware of 4-month old puppies when adding manure, blood or bone meal to your garden.  It is absolutely irresistible to them and dogs of all ages 😉

Radish seedlings.

As your seedlings come up, there will be too many growing too close together, so you will need to thin them once they have 2 – 3 
mature leaves (not the small seed leaves).


The easiest way to thin excess seedlings is to simply cut them off with scissors.  Pulling them out can injure the roots of the remaining plants.

Lettuce seedlings that were thinned.


Don’t throw out your leaf lettuce and radish greens that you have thinned out.  Use them to garnish you salad – they are delicious!


Check out your local county extension office’s website for information on when and what to plant in your area this month.  For the greater Phoenix area, here is a wonderful vegetable planting calendar



Do you have a favorite agave growing in your landscape?  Some agave produce volunteers (also called offsets or pups).  October is a great time to propagate succulents like agave or cacti.  


I have a favorite Parry’s Agave in my garden and it occasionally produces a little baby, which I take and replant elsewhere in my garden or give to a friend.  It is easy to transplant the baby agave and you can see how I do it, here.



As temperatures begin to cool, plants do not need as much water as they do in summer.  Adjust your irrigation schedule so that you are water less frequently.


The length of time that you water, should remain the same.  Trees should be watered to a depth of 3 feet, shrubs to 2 feet and perennials to 1 foot.  For watering guidelines and schedules, click here.


I love container gardening.  It is an easy way to change up the look of your landscape seasonally and year to year.

Container with geraniums, yellow Euryops daisies, fern leaf lavender and blue lobelia.



Switch out your warm-season container plantings for cool-season favorites.  Alyssum, geraniums, lobelia, pansies, petunias, snapdragons and violas are just a few colorful plants that can be added to your containers in October.


Add 6 inches of new potting mix (I like to use a planting mix, which is a little different then potting soil and avoids problems with wet soil) to each container before planting to replenish the old soil.


After adding your new plants, then sprinkle a slow-release fertilizer around the base of each plant, which will slowly release nutrients for about 3 months.


In addition to your traditional flowering containers, how about changing up your containers?

My granddaughter, Lily, is handling her watering duties very seriously.  I just think her little painted toenails are so cute!


 We planted this container filled with herbs and gave it to my oldest daughter for her birthday.  Chives, parsley, rosemary and thyme will handle our winters just fine and fresh herbs are just a few steps away from her kitchen.


My newest addiction is growing vegetables and flowers together in containers.

Petunias grow among parsley, garlic and leaf lettuce in front of my vegetable garden.

I have almost more fun growing vegetables in containers then I do in my vegetable gardens.


There are many types of vegetable that do well in containers, including leaf lettuce and garlic.  For more ideas of how to grow vegetables and flowers together, click here.


**I also made a video about growing a summer vegetable and flower container.  You can view it here.


Well, I think that I have given you a fair amount of task to do in your garden.  


What type of gardening tasks are you doing in your garden this month?  I would really love to hear about it.


I will post another “To-Do” List next month!

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.

 
Many plants handle cold weather just fine and have no problems with frost.  However, if you have frost-tender plants, such as bougainvillea, lantana, or yellow bells, you face a choice; Do you leave them unprotected from freezing temperatures and live with the unattractive frost-damaged growth?  Or do you protect them when temperatures dip below freezing?
 
Either choice is fine and is a matter of personal preference.  Frost-damaged growth can be pruned back once the last frost of the season has passed (early March where I live).  But, if you don’t want to live with brown, crispy plants for a few months, then protecting your plants when temps dip below freezing is necessary.  
 
In the daytime, the sun shines on soil, warming it.  At night, the soil releases the warmth from the ground.  When you cover your plants – the heat is captured keeping your plants warmer.
 
 
Plants aren’t fussy about what type of covering you use (with one exception); old sheets and towels are usually on hand and are easy to use.  Burlap and newspaper are also useful as coverings.  Cover your frost-tender plants in the evening, making sure that there aren’t any gaps where the heat can escape.  You can use large rocks or clothespins to secure them in place.  In the day, remove the covers once temperatures have risen above freezing, and allow the sun to warm the soil again.  
 
 
Don’t keep the coverings on your plants for more than two days in a row without removing them in the day since this can cause water to become trapped underneath, leading to fungal diseases and can cause plants to produce new growth that can be easily damaged by cold.
 
The best type of frost protection is frost cloth, which is a breathable fabric because it can ‘breathe,’ you can leave the frost cloth on your plants for a longer period.  But, use it only when there is a threat of frost.  After three days, uncover your plants during the day to allow the sun to reach your plants.
 
My neighbor made things worse by using plastic as a covering for his citrus trees.
One type of covering that you shouldn’t use is plastic, which transfers the cold to your plants and damages leaves when it touches the plant itself.
 
In my garden, I only protect my frost-tender trailing lantana which is in a high-profile area next to my entry.  The rest of my frost-tender plants, I leave alone until it is time to prune back their frost-damaged growth in spring.
 
So whether you cover your plants or not, the choice is yours 🙂
 
For more information on frost protection, check out the following link from the University of Arizona: Frost Protection

This morning, I spent some time outside in one of my vegetable gardens with my granddaughter, Lily.



While I worked, she had fun with the plants in my containers.  


My cool-season containers are in full bloom.  Leaf lettuce, petunias, garlic, parsley and nasturtiums are growing very well.

My 1-year old tomato plants are huge.  They extend over the fence between my containers.

There is even a small tomato seedling coming up in front of the yellow container.


They have taken over this part of the vegetable garden.  I admit that they aren’t particularly beautiful with the dead, brown area in the middle (the result of sunburn before I got my shade cloth up this summer).

There are a few green tomatoes on the vines, but they won’t have time to ripen before the first freeze.  So, I plan to keep an eye on the weather report and pick my green tomatoes just before a freeze is scheduled.

The green tomatoes will ripen indoors in my kitchen.


My bell peppers are doing just fabulous.

Last summer, I treated them with epsom salts, which helps to promote fruit production.  (You can read more about my experiment with epsom salts and my pepper plants here).


The epsom salts did their job.  I have over 6 bell peppers ready to be picked.  I’ll pick them before the first freeze, dice them and freeze them until I need them for making my Mexican rice.

Both tomato and pepper plants are damaged or killed in freezing temperatures in my zone 9a garden.  I will protect my pepper plants from frost by covering them with old sheets.  

I will not do the same for my tomato plants because they are very large and it would be hard to cover them all.  The other reason that I won’t bother to protect them is that many gardeners report that the size of tomatoes decreases as the plant gets older.

I will start again with new plants in late winter.

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I hope you are enjoying this holiday season.  You might have noticed that I haven’t been posting as often.  Partly this is due to the fact that I get busier in December preparing for Christmas.

The other reason is that I am having tendon trouble in my thumb.  I wear a splint, which helps somewhat – but it is very hard and laborious to type one-handed.

I do have some new posts coming up though, so stay tuned 🙂