The high season, the off season, the “shoulder season”—there are many ways we talk about the seasons in the desert. With the sun shining 354 days a year on average, it can be a gardener’s delight.
The shoulder season for the hospitality industry is late April through the end of May, and then again in late September and October. Temperatures can still get high (80s and above) in these months, but the nights start to cool down to the mid-50s and 60s. (See the chart below.)
Our desert potted gardens are the most frustrating to deal with during the shoulder season, as noted in the chart above in green. As I’ve discussed all month, we may want to plant for the next season, but the flowers are not ready.
This is, however, a great time to plant some vegetables and herbs, as they do well in containers. Make sure your containers are large enough, i.e. with an interior diameter of at least 20 inches.
The more soil you have, the cooler you will keep the roots.
I suggest you buy 4-inch pots of plants at a nursery rather than a big-box store, and use plants, not seeds; it will be easier to get them going. Water in the morning, before 7 a.m., so the plants have water for the day. You can still plant sweet basil as well as parsley, chives, oregano, sage, rosemary and thyme. You can also get a jump start on young tomato plants—as long as you keep them in afternoon shade.
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. Get a free copy of Ten Top Tips to Desert Potted Garden Success by visiting www.potteddesert.com/m.