As we approach “fall” here in the desert, the picture above may look familiar. I don’t need to tell you how challenging our summer is for any garden (except for perhaps gardens solely consisting of desert cactus). But true gardeners keeping trying—right?
Of course, we should not be planting our winter pots in our Palm Springs gardens until late October. I can just hear you replying, “Oh my! I cannot wait until then!”
Don’t give up yet, though. Remember, I am the person who continually says I expect to have color 365 days a year in my potted gardens!
Here are a few tips on how to approach your pots if they look like those above:
1. See if you can find new growth (healthy green sprouts) coming from the center of the plant. If you do, prune the plants back to that new growth. However, you must provide shade for this tender new growth. Either move the pots into the shade, under a dense tree or into a spot with only very early morning sun. You can also use a 70-plus-percent shade cloth. With this protection, the sun will not burn the new growth coming from the plants.
2. If you don’t see new growth, discard the baked plants. They will not rejuvenate, and it’s better to replace them with some new plants.
3. Go to the nursery early in the morning. If they don’t grow their own annuals, try to go on the day the nursery gets in fresh plants. Buy quart- or gallon-sized plants in order to have the greatest root ball and root mass, which will protect and support the plants in our continuing heat. Refer to last week’s column.
4. When planting new plants, add some fresh time-release fertilizer to the soil. If you have existing plants in the pot, don’t put in as much as recommended on the package: You do not want to burn the roots. Make sure your soil is damp before fertilizing and planting. Add half-strength fertilizer, and tuck in your new plants where you have bare spaces. (See the photo to the right.)
With a little care, shade, water and patience, a well-planted September pot, such as the one shown below, will serve you into your low desert winter.
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.