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Maintenance by the Month: July

The desert is hot (after a long, beeeeautiful spring!).

Plan your time outside carefully – early morning or evening. That’s better for your eyes, your health, and your skin. ☺

Try to water plants in the evenings or early morning to minimize evaporation; with more water going to your plants than into our dry atmosphere. Keep in mind that water pressure is most likely greater in the evening or middle of the night, versus 7 a.m. when everyone else is most likely showering and watering.

Prune plants that reach for the sun – oleanders, citrus, lantana, bougainvillea and hibiscus. Thin excessive and crossing interior growth of Mesquite and Palo Verde trees. Add 2 to 3 inches of mulch to roses, shrubs and young trees to keep the roots cool and to slow evaporation of moisture from the soil. Gravel, river stones and the like can also assist in keeping the roots of your plantings shaded and cool. I find using river stones to top dress pots effective in the summer to minimize evaporation and the frequency of watering.

Weed control is still important. Trim off spent roses.

Bermuda and nut grasses are active this time of year and are more susceptible to eradication. Once temperatures drop below 70 degrees, both grasses will become inactive. So, if you’re looking to rid your garden of nut grass or lawn to accommodate desert landscaping, now is the time to get busy with its removal, allowing for the cool temperatures of fall to install your new landscaping.

Help your lawn survive, if you still have one, by mowing a little on the high side so the grass shades the soil.

Check your irrigation controller

Check your irrigation

Make sure your irrigation program is working correctly. Keep an eye on your irrigation systems, running them manually at times to check for heads and emitters plugged with dirt or minerals.

Look ahead

Start planning fall plantings or retrofitting the garden even more to become more water efficient. Deep water trees and palms. If chlorosis shows on your eucalyptus or other trees, treat your plantings with chelated iron. (it absorbs into the root system and is more readily available than regular iron). Just be careful as it will stain patios and walkways.

Be very careful if you’re trimming bushes and hedges this time of year. If they get out of hand and too much of their shade is trimmed off at one time, they can scald, sunburn and even die. Much of our plant material is dormant in the summer or requires the growth it shot out in the spring to shade itself.

If you have higher maintenance plantings or hedges, I’ve found it most effective to trim them regularly, keeping their growth exposed to the sun to minimize sun burning. Think of your skin. If you step into the sun with no previous exposure, you’ll endure a severe burn. However, once you have developed a base tan, you’ll continue to tan nicely (with no sun burning)

Be on the lookout for quarter- to half-dollar size holes around the root zone of your Palo Verde trees caused by the Palo Verde beetle coming out of the ground to breed. They then go back into the ground to lay eggs within the root system. The hatched larvae feed on the root systems, basically shutting down sections of your trees; eventually wiping out the entire tree. With no root system to speak of, the tree can no longer absorb water and minerals to sustain the upper canopy of the tree.

You can apply granular insecticide down into the holes, and/or sprinkle it around the tree. I’ve found a drench of stinky liquid Malathion into the holes and around the root zone to be super effective. Covering the holes with screen or mesh will prevent the female beetles from either coming out of their holes or ducking back into them after breeding.

Take care of yourself

Let’s not lose any readers this summer. Drink your fluids, remember to rest and most of all, go at a steady pace. Don’t overdo it and be careful out there.

Troy Bankord of Troy Bankord Design in Palm Springs has been a landscape and interior designer for 30 years. His award-winning projects have been featured in publications, on architectural tours and on television shows. He was named “Master of the Southwest” by Phoenix Home & Garden Magazine in 2006.

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