Southwest Checklist

What to do in your garden in July
Kim Nelson

PLANTING

Lavender. Plant these lavender hybrids for fragrant flowers and foliage texture: 'Grosso' (violet-blue flower spikes that dry well), 'Hidcote Giant' (plump, deep violet spikes), and 'Provence' (light violet flowers ideal for sachets). In Sunset climate zones 1a­3b, grow them in containers. In zones 10­13, grow them in well-drained garden soil.

Permanent plants. Zones 1a­3b: Plant perennials now so plants can get established before winter. Consider tough trees and shrubs like juniper, Mexican buckeye ( Ungnadia speciosa), Russian hawthorn ( Crataegus ambigua), and silverberry ( Elaeagnus commutata). Zones 10­13: Set out drought-tolerant trees and shrubs such as acacia, Apache plume ( Fallugia paradoxa), chaste tree ( Vitex agnus-castus), and palo verde ( Cercidium 'Desert Museum').

Summer color. Set out heat-tolerant Southwest natives such as angelita daisy ( Tetraneuris acaulis), butterfly weed ( Asclepias tuberosa), chocolate flower ( Berlandiera lyrata), poppy mallow ( Callirhoe involucrata), sundrops ( Calylophus serrulatus), and Texas hummingbird mint ( Agastache cana). Seeds and plants of these natives are available from Plants of the Southwest (800/788-7333).

Warm-season vegetables. Zones 1a-3b: Plant pumpkins early this month to guarantee ripe fruit before frost. Sow seeds of bush beans, snap beans, beets, collard greens, cucumbers, lettuce, melons, radishes, and spinach. Zones 10, 11: Sow cantaloupe, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, okra, pumpkins, and summer and winter squash. Plant potatoes at month's end. Zones 12, 13: Sow black-eyed peas, corn, okra, melons, pumpkins, and squash. Two good sources are Roswell Seed Company (505/622-7701) and Seeds of Change (888/762-7333).

MAINTENANCE

Collect rainwater. As drought conditions persist, plan to harvest water from summer monsoons. Form soil berms to direct and hold rainwater in tree wells, or channel roof runoff into large basins. Place barrels under downspouts to catch rainwater for potted plants.

Dethatch lawns. If you have a hybrid Bermuda grass lawn, you need to remove the dense mat of runners every two or three years to allow water and nutrients to reach the roots. After mowing, vigorously run a hard-tined rake through the grass to thin the mat. Or rent a gas-powered dethatching machine and run it over the lawn twice in opposite directions. Follow with another mowing, then fertilize and water deeply.

Learn about low-water plants. If you live in the Phoenix area, pick up a copy of Landscape Plants for the Arizona Desert: Guide to Growing More Than 200 Low-Water Use Plants, published by the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association (2004; 602/248-8482). The free booklet is available from the AMWUA and through local water-conservation offices.

Solarize soil. Use the sun's heat to rid soil of damaging fungus or nematodes or to kill unwanted Bermuda grass. First loosen the soil and water well, then cover the area with heavy (6-mil) clear-plastic sheeting. Use stakes or rocks to hold it in place. Leave the plastic in place for four to eight weeks.