Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Fall’s coming, so have some fun with your garden


No doubt about it: Summer will soon be history for another year.

Once a customer, new to the area, asked me how he could tell when summer was finally over in Tucson. I told him that summer in Tucson ended when it was blown away.

While, it hasn’t been brisk, there has definitely been that certain breeze. It seems to be at its lazy work, sweeping up the cinders of the leftover fire; gathering the lingering stale hot air; readying our monsoon-refreshed landscape for the big cleanup. Anyone who is out and about early in the morning has witnessed the results. And soon we will be fully catapulted into the next season where we fuss, not about how hot it is, but that we need to cover our tender plants for an unexpected frost.

So what should we be doing out in the garden, around the landscape and with our potted plants to welcome this delightful change?

Change is the key, and the best thing we can do is make it welcome. During the slow summer months, Mesquite Valley Growers’ staffers spend a lot of time visiting nursery shows in other parts of the country. It never fails to impress me how well the gardeners of other regions welcome change. In Tucson we whine when our annual chile plants only make it through three years while our fellow earth tillers in Chicago prepare to chuck their hibiscus so they might have the delight of a different color next year when summer comes. There is a wisdom in the latter attitude – recognizing that an annual gives its best, if not its all, in the first full season of its life and will not get any better in future years.

So till the vegetable garden to refresh the soil for the cool season crops to come. Clean out the annual beds – yes, pull out those vinca that have made it through their third year of struggle. Empty the pots and containers and fill them with fresh, vibrant, nutrient-rich earth to welcome the delightful new season that is almost upon us.

Of course, we don’t want to live with empty pots and beds, so it is comforting to know that many plants flourish in the changing of seasons and will continue on into the entire eight months for the fortunate people that have “cool season” gardens!

This is a great time to blend the perennial workhorses with the beginning of the annuals that will grace our cooler weather.

Chrysanthemums certainly don’t have the nerve to bloom all winter, but they are a blaze of autumn glory that will provide a sturdy green background for the entire rest of the year.

Geraniums prefer these changing days to the sluggishness of months past.

Verbena puts on a full-on new round of blooms on the foliage that became so renewed with the late rains of summer.

Add to these some of the annuals that are the first to brave our not-quite-cooled days, such as calendulas, dianthus and petunias.

This is the perfect time for plant combinations to make an exceptional mosaic of rich plant palette.

Try something new – live a little, summer is almost over!

Cathy Bishop, co-owner of Mesquite Valley Growers Nursery, has more than 30 years of gardening experience. E-mail her at weekendplus@ tucsoncitizen.com.



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