Transition to September Planting Season

Fall is coming. But it’s a wonderful season!
  • Top Garden Tips for Prescott.  
  • Is it OK to plant in fall?  
  • Mountain gardening simplified.  
  • Should I add wood ash to my garden soil?  
  • How much lime sweetens garden soil?  
  • Which fruit trees grow in Prescott?  
  • Frost dates for zone 7 
  • Javalina, deer, rabbit -proof plant list.

Many of us have gardened in places where the soil is rich, its pH perfectly balanced, the climate blessed with consistent rainfall, gentle sun, and plant-coddling humidity.    Mountain soil and climate present the opposites of such ideal gardening conditions!

Here's an encapsulated definition of the characteristics of mountain gardening and how to contend with them:  

The local USDA garden zone is 6b with a definite influence from zone 7.  This defines our area as mild, but with a definite winter and possible subzero temperatures. 

Never, but never, underestimate the Arizona sun, wind, and dry air.  They are major influences in determining which plants do well in our landscapes, and which ones won't.  Local soils are typically heavy clay with very little organic material.  Therefore, soil preparation for planting is of extreme importance. It demands the addition of composted Premium Mulch to your soil to either hold in the moisture for granite soils, or to prevent clay soils from compacting.  Our soil is alkaline and usually doesn’t need the addition of either lime or wood ashes, which would increase its already high pH.

When selecting plants for mountain landscapes look for those with thick, leathery leaves; they allow plants to retain a high degree of moisture and to be less prone to tearing in the area’s fierce windstorms. This is where it pays to talk to a gardening expert with some experience in local landscapes.  It can save you a whole lot of time, energy, and expense in creating your landscape.

Mild winter temperatures provide enough of the chilling necessary for all the deciduous fruits and perennials to thrive in the region.  They include apples, peaches, cherries, grapes, and berries. Get a free copy of my new Fruit Tree Book for more informative help. This climate also is conducive to blooming deciduous shrubs such as lilac, forsythia, hardy camellia, rose of Sharon, butterfly bush, and Russian sage.  Some of the loveliest roses in the country thrive here without the tedious demands of constant tending necessary in more humid climates.  Thanks to the low humidity and mild winters, mountain roses experience few problems with bugs, mildew, and virtually no black spot.

The climate is so mild that we garden and design landscapes 12 months of the year.  The average last frost date in spring is Mother’s Day.   However, spring is so mild that our cool-season gardens can be planted as early as March 1st.  These can include lettuces, spinach, broccoli, potatoes, onions, radishes, and more. 

The first light frost happens on or about Halloween, depending on your garden’s specific elevation, but all mountain gardens look great through Thanksgiving.  This makes the average frost-free growing season in our region approximately 150 days long.

The area is surrounded by National Forest lands so plant-eating mammals can be threats to all gardening efforts.  Javelinas, deer, antelope, rabbits, squirrels, and gophers all have the potential to devour portions of a carefully planned landscape.  It is essential to be very selective of the plants used for landscaping in these critter-populated areas.  This is another case where professional advice can save you many headaches and costly errors. The next time you visit Watters ask for the printed handouts that tell which plants mountain critters won’t eat.  

Labor Day is the official start time of fall planting in the region, so that means there are two months left to our warm-weather growing season. If you've been considering a landscape addition to create more seasonal excitement in the garden, now is the time to take action. Whether planting some of the past season's stock or new arrivals, the plants have plenty of time to develop extensive root systems before winter. Garden success definitely increases when plants are put in during the monsoon season. Many that bloom in late summer and autumn are especially happy when planted this time of year.

Truckloads of winter evergreens and trees ready for fall color are on their way. The first of many deliveries arrive this week!  To prepare for this seasonal transition Watters hosts its annual clearance sale, aka the 'Monster Monsoon Sale.'  There is nothing wrong with these lower-priced plants, but the spring and summer stock simply must go to make room for the fall and winter selections.  I even have been known to give away free plants when I know they're going to a good home! 

The sale encompasses a couple of weekends, so the best savings of the year are to be had within the next few weeks.  Get in to scoop up the deals as early as possible, because savvy gardeners know to take advantage of these between-season sales. The limited quantities go fast!

Except for mums and asters, the garden center DOES NOT want any leftover perennials during its transition into the autumn planting season. So, if the plant you want isn't on sale, ask for a discount. We are remarkably receptive to giving you "a deal," especially when you offer to take home more than one plant. :-)

Until next week, I'll be helping “transitioning” local gardeners here at Watters Garden Center.

Ken Lain can be found throughout the week at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Rd in Prescott, or contacted through his web site at  WattersGardenCenter.com or   FB.com/WattersGardenCenter .

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Garden Classes

August 31 @ 9:30 am - Edible Landscape with Trees & Berries (Labor Day Weekend) Have your landscape and eat it, too!  We’ll share the tips, tricks, and recipes that make for a better, healthier and tastier landscape.  Plant experts will be on hand after the class that specializes in fruiting designs that can be eaten after planting. FREE



September 7 @ 9:30 am – Wildlife & Bug Prevention - Late summer is not only the peak of bug season, but there's also intense pressure from furry visitors in our yards.  Students start with best practices to keep javelina and pack rats away, then quickly move to solutions for grasshoppers and tomato worms.  You can have a nice yard with these easy-to-use tips and a few key plant choices.  Frustrated gardeners will have all the tools they need to keep the garden pest-free! FREE

Ken Lain

September 14 @ 9:30 am – Succulents Succulents are all the rage right now, and a great choice for container growing! Most are tough, drought-tolerant, and will grow like gangbusters in a tight space with very little after-care. Students will learn how to create a container that brings warm color and texture to their homes even at the coldest time of the year. The class is free to onlookers, but the first 12 students to sign up can create their own design with professional guidance for a $25 fee (pots provided).  Call 928-445-4159 to sign up.



September 21 @ 9:30 am - Top 10 Evergreens for Mountain Landscapes – Evergreens can be the anchor of any landscape, providing color and privacy year-round.  We'll dispel the myth that the only evergreens are pine trees, when in fact they can be a multitude of different shapes, colors, and sizes—there are even evergreens that aren't green! FREE

September 28 @ 9:30 am – Planting for Success in our Mountain Soil – We've planted thousands of plants throughout northern Arizona, and now we're going to share our secrets with YOU. Watters' Ella Amos, gets her hands dirty every day planting new landscapes for our wonderful customers. Years of planting success and the knowledge she's gained through her experience make Ella the perfect Guest Instructor for this class. She'll share the techniques and trade secrets she's learned to help you be a smarter, savvier, more successful gardener. FREE



October 5 @ 9:30 am - Gardening for Newcomers  Learn all the mountain secrets to local garden success.  This is an information-packed class guaranteed to increase garden blooms and fruit this year.  Learn about growing zones, frost dates, soils and more; you'll know exactly what to do in the gardens after this class. FREE

Michele and Doug


October 12 @ 9:30 am - Autumn Colors Best Enjoyed at Home - Landscapes in autumn can be stunning, but only with proper planning.  This easy-care advice will bring the silver and blues out of the evergreens, showcasing brilliant bright foliage and crazy colored flowers.  Make this the brightest fall of all!  FREE


October 19 @ 9:30 am - Top 10 Trees and How to Plant them -  Privacy, shade, color, evergreen, and blooms. We cover trees from every angle. With so many choices, picking the perfect tree can seem overwhelming, but not after this class.  Our horticultural team will be on-hand after the class to help with individual tree situations.  Free tree planting guide to all attendees.  FREE


October 25 @ 9:30 pm - Fall ‘To-do‘ list for a Healthy Yard - Get the most out of your landscape with this easy to use checklist of fall care.  Bring the color out of your fall gardens, reduce bugs next spring, or simply put your landscape to bed with these easy to use ideas.  FREE

Ken Lain


Ken Lain, the Mountain Gardener

Ken Lain is attracted to sunshine, beauty, happiness, success and health through gardening, and wishes to point the way to others. Throughout the week Ken can be found at Watters Garden Center located at 1815 W. Iron Springs Rd, Prescott, or contacted through his web site at www.wattersgardencenter.com

Website: www.wattersgardencenter.com