One of the distinctive traits of summer in the Sonoran Desert is that the season naturally divides itself into two parts. Which is as it should be, perhaps, given that summer is such an intense and long-lasting season.
The two sections of summer could almost be distinguished as dry and wet, but that might be an exaggeration. Perhaps they should be termed Very Dry and Slightly Moist?
The first is the Very Dry, extending roughly May and June. It overlaps the summer solstice, which means very intense sunlight at the time when humidity is lowest, often dropping into the single digits. Heat rises above 100 F, then above 110 F. For the last two summers, temperatures have reached 118 F before dropping back slightly, but it's the prolonged periods over 108 F that seem to do the most damage in the garden, just as in a cold winter garden, extended periods below freezing do more overall damage than a single sharp dip. Typically the region has already been rainless for many weeks when the temperatures begin to rise, so there is no natural soil moisture for plants to fall back on. This is the period when leaves turn from green to brown within hours and plants that were apparently adjusting to the heat suddenly collapse and die.
As the so-called monsoon season enters, normally in early July, moisture begins to spread in from the Gulf of Mexico. Rain may be heavy or light, but if it comes, its arrival washes the air and soil and lowers temperatures for a few hours at any rate. When the heat returns it is more formidable with the rise in humidity, but it seldom returns quite to the levels of June. A good monsoon season, with its desert thunderstorms and humidity is welcomed by much of nature. This includes the birds, the toads, and unfortunately the mosquitoes. It's harder on the humans and livestock, but still those sudden cooler hours make summer bearable again. For the garden it is a godsend.
The first part of summer is the time I layer mulch madly over everything, then hold my breath and just watch to see what will survive. As so many plants falter, a few of the summer bloomers come quietly into play, but it is not a lush season.
With the arrival of moisture, the summer garden has a chance to put on a more brilliant display. This is the time the tropicals call their own, though many will bloom earlier or later as well.
And now, at the end of July, here is a look at what the monsoon season has done for the garden this year. So far it's been an unusually good one.
Finally, a more personal note. Over the past month or so it has become very likely that we will be moving, probably to New Mexico. While this holds some exciting possibilities, I've found it difficult to deal with the idea of leaving a half-finished garden. Hopefully everything will sort itself out as things go on! In the meantime, my blogging may continue to suffer a bit. I intend to carry on with the blog, but posts may become somewhat more random, and I'll probably not be consistent with regular memes.
But the blog is not going away! Please do continue to stop by, read, and comment! :)