Summer Monsoon ~ an ideal planting season

by Ken Lain, the mountain gardener

Happy Anniversary to Lisa, the love of my life. It was July 25, 1987 that we said “I Do”Lisa and Ken at prom-page-001. (“Old time” wedding photos will follow on the Watters Facebook and Instagram pages later in the week.)

We thought that weekly column readers would enjoy this photo of one of our first dates. It was taken at the Prescott High School prom, 1982. From the time it was taken, this picture has been hanging in every one of my offices. With Lisa by my side I consider myself the luckiest guy I know.

The month of June is filled with brutal days for all plants. With a prevailing southwesterly wind, 0% humidity, and no precipitation, plants are utterly dependent on their gardeners. By the end of this trying month plants are exhibiting smaller leaves, small-sized fruit, and even some yellowing. We have set our irrigation frequencies so high that nutrients are flushed from the soil, evidenced by the white mineral deposits within the root zones. Then, usually the first half of July, the monsoon season moves in with its abundance of rain!

Monsoon rains hit the Lain gardens on Monday
Monsoon rains hit the Lain gardens on Monday

Mountain monsoon weather increases our humidity dramatically, it brings in clouds that provide welcome shade, and the occasional afternoon rain. This is another planting season for mountain gardeners, especially conducive to putting in trees, shrubs, and large vines. Some of my most successful planting efforts have been during this rainy summer season.

Review of Mountain Planting

A planting hole that is dug correctly and properly amended will result in a healthy, vigorous plant. Below is my 6-step planting technique that consistently works best for local gardens.

Dig HoleStep one – The bowl-shaped hole should be the same depth but three times wider than the plant’s root ball. Plants don’t need a deep hole; they thrive when able to stretch out just under the soil’s surface in search of food and water. Be sure to rid the hole of any rocks that are larger than golf balls.

Step two – Check for good drainage by filling the newly dug hole with water. If after 12 hours the water has not completely drained away, dig a chimney-like hole in the bowl- shaped hole until you reach the next soil band and check the drainage again.

Step three – Improve the planting soil by amending it with composted mulch. NO manure is used for this planting; it is too strong for new plants. There are two types of soil in mountain gardens. One is hard clay, which does not drain well; the other is loose granite that water flows through as it flows through sand. Good mulch will keep clay soil loose and aerated, and retain water up around the root ball in loose granite.

The amount of mulch per plant should be equal to the size of the root ball. That is the quantity of mulch you will need to blend with native soil to fill in around each plant. Spread a layer of mulch as top dressing to insulate the plant and to retain water around the newly forming roots. For granite soil you should add a 3-inch deep layer of additional mulch on top of the root ball.
Step four – Don’t bury the plant; the trunk should be kept out of the soil. The top of the root ball you see exposed in the grower’s pot should remain exposed when transplanted into your garden.

Step five – Feed your new plantings with ‘All-Purpose Plant Food’ 7-4-4. This natural food encourages strong root development, yet is safe for pets, birds, and young family All Purpose Plant Foodmembers. It works well, is easy to use, and has a large margin of error that other foods do not have. Just sprinkle the granules on top of the root ball and water well. This slow-release nutrient will feed newly forming roots a little each time you water. There is no easier way to nurture a strong root system.

Step six – ‘Root & Grow’ promotes deeper roots. Tired of cheap rooting substitutes and manufactured short cuts, I Root and Growdeveloped this liquid rooting solution for our local gardens. When this liquid magic is added directly to the plant’s water new roots will push more quickly into the surrounding soil. Using a 2-gallon watering can, add the recommended amount of solution to the water; then, once it is in the ground, generously soak each plant. Use this rooting tonic every two weeks until new foliage or flowers appear.
NOTE: For exact planting details that include drawings and measurements, ask for my ‘Guide to Mile High Planting’ the next time you visit the garden center. You also might like the useful companion piece ‘Mile High Watering Guide’.


Grapes are good examples of the importance of planting at the right time. Grape vines are one of the last to come around each spring; that’s because they need warm soil before they start growing for the season. Planted during our warmer, more humid season, grapes quickly will exhibit new growth.
Garden Alert: “Spider Mites Kill Local Evergreens”


Tell a friend – If you find these gardening tips helpful and want to share them with friends, direct them to this link for the High Country Garden Club.

Until next week I’ll see you at the 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 or .