How the weeds have grown after all this wonderful rain. We were promised a relatively dry monsoon this year, but luckily, those forecasts have been proven wrong. The rains have flooded some areas and caused much damage too. Although some of us are content to suffer in return for the rain, we must not forget those who have experienced irreplaceable losses. At our other home in Tucson the stream we constructed in a wash bed has been taken out twice this monsoon, leaving water plants hanging like Christmas decorations on creosote bushes downstream. Rocks and the streambed liner were all torn up and floated downstream too.
In Payson we are on top of a hill where the surrounding plants are still in need of supplemental water. On the subject of watering, I have found that a good way to use the minimum water is to lay some lengths of soaker hose around a selected group of plants. Soaker hose comes in lengths of 10 feet and upwards. If the connecting ends are placed in the same vicinity to each other, it is easy to connect the end of a long hose from the delivering faucet to the end of each soaker hose in turn. Soaker hoses allow the water to soak straight into the ground without losing a lot to evaporation as in the case of sprayers and they are less attractive to the wildlife with sharp teeth. Some of the drip-waterers in our yard have been chewed off by the wild animals -- probably skunks or raccoons -- who think they are fountains just for their use. You will notice a soaker hose in the accompanying photograph.
A native plant, the Agave arizonica, is considered an endangered Arizona species. This particular specimen is one of two that I have, which were grown from seeds in a cactus nursery. Although xerophytic in structure, some added water is given to encourage it to grow faster and reach flowering size sooner. Agave arizonica is native to a small area well off the beaten track in central Arizona and, it is believed, there are fewer than 50 plants remaining at the present time. Due to the wild animals such as deer chewing on their sweet leaves, the existing plants have a problem producing mature flowers and thereby setting seeds. The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix is endeavoring to produce seeds of this plant so that it is not lost to the plant world. Tissue culture is another answer to keeping a threatened species alive. It is a beautiful, small growing Agave with bright green leaves, with mahogany red edges.
Elk out and about
Have you heard the elk bugling earlier than usual this year? We are familiar with the route they take at night in our neighborhood judging by the sequence of local dogs barking. They are beautiful creatures and we are pleased to have them, but we also want to be able to grow some plants without their being eaten by the elk.
Potatoes are supposed to be one plant they will keep away from. That is if you have some deep enough soil in which to grow them.
An alternative if you live in the boondocks and have an electric fence is to put daubs of peanut butter on the wires. Elks love peanut butter. When they taste it on the wires they will get a shock and that should be enough to deter them for a while.
Keep the fence energized at all times. You need to add more peanut butter repeatedly as other elk will come along and taste it. Then the young elk will be around. So ... this is an ongoing thing.
Dealing with weeds
Weeds are only plants growing where you don't want them to grow. Some people delight in studying wild flowers and swoon whenever they find a new one they haven't seen before. However, there is still the problem of getting rid of unwanted weeds in our gardens.
The best way is to pull them out, root and all, shortly after rain while the ground is soft and before the weeds get the chance of producing seed. Pulling the tops off at ground level will only encourage them to grow again and become even more bushy.
Alternatively, if you are prepared to use chemical weed killers, then a proprietary weed killer such as Roundup™ can be used when the leaves are young and actively growing and juicy from recent rains.
If you apply the chemical weed killers according to the instructions, and do this each year as the spring and then the summer weeds start growing well, you should find that the volume of unwanted weeds minimizes after about three years.
It is a good idea to wear gloves when pulling weeds. Those large beautiful white trumpet-like flowers you often see by the roadsides are daturas. If you are pulling them or handling them for any reason, note they are poisonous -- every part of them -- the flowers and seeds, the leaves, the stems and even the roots.
Some people are not affected by the toxicity, but others get hospitalized after working near them, even without touching them. Daturas are also poisonous to animals.
Time to mulch
The rains will have washed away much of the mulch remaining around your trees and plants. It is time to think about getting some more mulch in and ready for putting around some plants later in September to help them survive the winter cold. Your local nurseryman should be able to recommend the most suitable for you to use. In the West, there are plenty of animals around if you wish to get in some manure and get that ready for the springtime mulching.
Or maybe you have some from your own horses and goats and chickens, as I do. When applying mulch containing manure around plants, try and keep it away from the trunks or stems, to avoid burning the bark or epidermis.
Annual garden conference
The Master Gardeners of Coconino, Yavapai, Navajo, and Gila counties are presenting their annual Garden Conference on Oct. 3 and 4, 2005, in Flagstaff. Check out the conference schedule, designed especially for gardeners in the high country, by visiting the website at: cals.arizona.edu/yavapai/ ahgc/conference2005.html or call (928) 774-1868 ext. 10. There is still time to get in your registration.
The Rim Area Gardeners have been responsible for arranging some fine garden tours every year for the enjoyment of the public. The tours are educational and an effort is made to ensure most of the plants are named correctly so you will know what to ask for at the nurseries. Next year's garden tour is being planned for Saturday, June 3, 2006. If you have an interesting garden, there is plenty of time to titivate it before next June. The Rim Area Gardeners would be delighted to hear from you if you would like to have your garden included on next year's tour. Please contact them at Rim Area Gardeners, P.O. Box 3143, Payson, AZ 85547.