Southern Arizona is blessed in many ways. We have spectacular sunsets, majestic mountains, and a generally salubrious winter climate. Despite the occasional cold front that touches down, withering any tender plants, winters are, on the whole, great for growing all the plants we can’t have in the summer.
Grow some winter color. There are a number of annual plants that prefer cooler weather, withering once it warms up in April. It is too late to start them from seed (the soil is too cold), instead, get transplants at the nursery. My top three easy-to-grow favorites for winter are calendula, stock, and Johnny-jump-ups. These three are colorful, stock is also fragrant, and none of them need deadheading to look good. They are also a little less frost sensitive than the other annuals in nurseries now. Ornamental cabbages also take frost, and pansies maintain down to about 20 degrees. Dusty miller takes the cold and provides a nice silvery backdrop for your brightly colored flowers. If you have a protected area, snapdragon, lobelia, and dianthus are other annuals you can grow now.
Poppies and mixed pots of annuals are in nurseries now, but place any newly purchased plants in a slightly protected area. Nursery stock has been pampered by the growers before you get it. It may get zapped by cold if placed out in an unprotected area. Partially under a tree is good, or in a large pot on a patio. If there is a freeze, plants will recover best if the early morning sun shines on them.
Herbs from northern Europe do well in winter here, and that includes parsley, cilantro, dill, anise, caraway, and cumin. Call around to local nurseries to find these graceful and tasty herbs to add to your winter garden. These are annuals in our climate and will die in the summer heat.
I hate to bring up a four-letter word in a family newspaper, but January is the time. The time to weed. Get rid of these little suckers of moisture now, while they are young, before they spread seed all over your yard. A hoe or spade will chop the top from the root, and the plants are small enough yet that they should not resprout. Yanking them out by the roots after rain works well too.
If you want to trees, shrubs, and perennials, January is a good time to dig the hole. Most plants that survive our summers are not active winter growers. Transplanting a not-actively growing plant often leads to it’s demise. If you bought a living Christmas tree, ideally wait until March to plant it, and do not overwater it while you are waiting. If you do plant anything, don’t overwater! Cold soils combined with the inevitable transplant damage to roots can cause rot.
Plant annuals, prune only your rose bushes, harvest your citrus, and weed. There is just enough to do in the yard in winter, but not too much. This is a great excuse to get outside, soak up a little vitamin D, and relish the blessings a southern Arizona winter provides.
The landscape around your home can be a pleasureful space with lush, desert-adapted plants. To find out which plants to use and where, call for a private “garden coaching” consultation. Contact me at 909-3474, and feel free to leave a voice message. More information at gardeningwithsoule.com.