In the Garden:
Southwestern Deserts
May, 2001
Regional Report

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Cool-season pansies, johnny-jump-ups, and lobelia need more water and partial shade as temperatures rise.

Planting Container Gardens

As our temperatures rise, plants growing in containers need more attention. Soil can really heat up in a pot, and roots can't seek out deeper, moister, or cooler conditions as they would in the garden. Containers usually displayed on concrete patios or sidewalks, are living in heat sinks that are hotter than surrounding areas and really need to be watched.

Protect Cool-Season Containers

It's transition time between cool-season and warm-season plantings in our area. It seems that cool-season containers start looking full and lush, just in time for an unseasonably hot day that leaves them fried. They don't quite come back even if temperatures cool down again.

Moving Containers

If a hot day is predicted, I take steps to protect my containers by physically moving them into a sheltered location. I park them next to a north-facing wall, where I can still enjoy their color from a window. Since they're already vigorously growing, the reduced sunlight doesn't seem to effect them and they're protected from the overly hot afternoon sun.

Water and Mulch

Containers quickly dry out in the low desert. I usually water cool-season pots daily or every other day at this time of year to keep them looking good. A layer of compost on top of the soil can also reduce soil temperatures and maintain moisture. If a container does dry out, it's hard to remoisten the soil completely. If the container is small enough, I plunge it into a bucket of water until it soaks up the moisture and the soil is rehydrated.

Plant Warm-Season Containers

Of course, at some point, the heat overwhelms cool-season plants, and it just doesn't pay to try to keep them alive. By then, warm-season containers should be up and running. Create your containers now from seed or transplants, so root systems have time to establish before summer.


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