Our desert weather is very inviting now. Palm Springs streets are filled with snowbirds, and restaurants are booked to the max.
Why not take advantage of this chaos and stay home? Go out onto your patio for your morning brew, a casual lunch shared with a friend, or an evening barbecue. Now is the time to enjoy your desert home.
While you are at it, take some quiet time to sit and reflect on your successes (and challenges!) in your potted garden, and consider writing a garden journal.
If you are reading this column, you must have at least one green digit (aka thumb). You have poked around with different plants and flowers in an effort to create a beautiful garden in this challenging desert climate. Why not record what you have tried, making note of what has succeeded—and perhaps exceeded your expectations?
You can use a bound journal, your tablet, your computer or even a loose-leaf binder. It’s up to you—whatever tickles your fancy. Think about what will drive you to add entries each week. Do you want to add pictures of your successful pots? Some people tote around pictures of their grandchildren, so why not your garden?
Here are four ideas on how to use your garden journal.
We “transplants” from non-desert climates like to try plants that we grew “back home.” Your garden journal is a great place to record how each new plant did. Perhaps you want to make a page for each new plant and list the information from the plant tag. Record your memories of the plant, and document how it is doing in your desert garden.
Have a page just for the first and last frost dates in your yard. Even though you can find the first and last frost dates for your area, your particular yard has its own micro-climate, and various parts of your yard will have their own micro-climates. While you are at it, make notes of weather patterns—has this been an exceptionally wet or (more likely) dry season?
List the types of plants you’ve used, the combinations you’ve created, location/sun exposures, and the containers you’ve used. How did they do? Were there specific watering requirements? Be sure to take a picture of each.
Write about your failures. Did you try a new technique or plant that was a disaster? Write about your surprises and absolutely about your successes. This will be invaluable to use in your future gardens and to share information with your friends—especially when they come over to join you on your patio and enjoy your garden.
What to do in your desert potted garden this month:
Be sure to keep up with your fertilizing schedule in all floral pots. Use a water-soluble fertilizer every two weeks.
Keep up with your deadheading of spent flowers, and prune back to keep plants in a nice shape. Pay special attention to petunias, so you can keep them from getting leggy.
January is the month to do a full pruning of your roses. Cut back to a third, and trim out dead and crossing branches. Clean up all debris after deleafing the plants entirely.
If your yard did not get any substantial rain in December, water your potted succulents and cactus.
Marylee Pangman is the founder and former owner of The Contained Gardener in Tucson, Ariz. She has become known as the desert’s potted garden expert. She is available for digital consultations, and you can email her with comments and questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow the Potted Desert at facebook.com/potteddesert.