This year is already proving to be quite a challenge for Tucson gardeners. Our crazy mild winter has given insects an early start, weeks of high wind have dried out our soils and left everything under a layer of dust, and now we’re sweating out higher temperatures than we’re used to seeing this early in the season.
Typically, we don’t see temperatures as high as today’s until early May, so we’re almost a month ahead of schedule! We know that this is great news for Eegees, but what does it mean for our plants?
It turns out that early heat in the desert isn’t all doom and gloom! With a bit of preparation and observation, the early heat could mean a longer season of bright flowers and beautiful greenery in your garden. Here are a few tips to keep your plants happy as the temperatures continue to rise.
- In high heat and high winds, container plants may need water more than once a day, and established plants in the ground will want water more frequently as well.
- If you use an automated irrigation system, you may want to implement your summer irrigation schedule a little early this year. Watering in the early morning (before 7am) is best, as this reduces evaporation and allows your plants time to take up plenty of water before high heat sets in.
- Check your plants in the morning, and again in the evening if possible, especially if wind or heat was unusually high that day. If the soil is damp but your plants are still wilting from the heat, consider moving them to a spot with more afternoon shade (if they’re in containers), or using some strategically-placed shade cloth to give them a little relief from the afternoon sun.
- Lastly, be very careful with fertilizers when heat is high. Plants that are growing quickly need even more water to support their growth. If you do have a plant in need of fertilizing (roses, container plants or annuals), use a food with low nitrogen content, or use only a quarter to half of the recommended amount of your regular food.
In parting, here’s a time-lapse video of the Catalina Mountains from a webcam at the University of Arizona to remind us all that, despite the heat, Tucson’s weather can be pretty darn cool! It’s only 27 seconds long, but there’s a beautiful surprise at the end. Enjoy!