Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southwestern Deserts
January, 2009
Regional Report

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Organically grown salad greens add to a healthy lifestyle for the New Year.

Green Garden Resolutions

A New Year brings fresh resolve to practice a more healthy lifestyle, not only for ourselves and family members, but for the wider community. Consider incorporating one or more of these earth-friendly ideas into your gardening routine.

Reduce Green Waste
Thirty to forty percent of stuff hauled to the landfill is organic matter that could be recycled in the garden or landscape. Resolve to start turning your landscape trimmings, spent plants, dried leaves, shredded paper, and kitchen scraps (no meat, oils, or dairy) into rich, dark compost that will feed your garden's soil.

Become a Locavore
A "locavore" consumes food that is grown and produced near home. Not that long ago, our human ancestors were all locavores by necessity, eating what they could forage, hunt, or grow within easy distance. With the advent of modern air transport, we have been spoiled by a cornocopia of choices at the market, regardless of season. With increased awareness of true costs (such as petroleum use and carbon emissions to transport food thousands of miles) many folks are shopping at local farmers' markets or growing their own fruits and vegetables to enjoy a fresh-picked harvest.

Let it Lie
Instead of bagging lawn clippings, let them lie where they fall after mowing. Because they are small, thin, and full of moisture, clippings quickly decompose, returning nutrients to the soil, allowing you to reduce nitrogen fertilizer applications by 25 percent. Contrary to popular belief, clippings left on the lawn do not promote thatch build-up. Just be sure to mow regularly. If you prefer to rake them up, toss clippings into the compost pile as a good source of nitrogen.

Waste Not, Want Not
Don't let fresh citrus go to waste. Perhaps you moved to a home with multiple mature citrus trees and you and your family just can't consume it all. Or, maybe it's difficult for you to harvest the hard-to-reach branches. Organize a gleaning party with friends and neighbors. Let everybody take some fruit, or decide in advance to donate it to a food bank. Also, check with local food banks: some offer "gleaners" who will harvest for you. Another option is Plant a Row for the Hungry, a nationwide campaign originaly started in 1995 by the Garden Writers Association to encourage communities to donate produce to local food banks. For details on how to organize a campaign or on existing efforts in your area, visit

Eliminate Pesticide Use
In the Southwest, there aren't many true pest problems on plants. Given the opportunity, birds, lizards, and beneficial predator insects, such as lady beetle and green lacewing larvae, will consume pests for us, even those annoying crickets and cockroaches. I've talked to dozens of gardeners over the years who state that when they stopped spraying, Mother Nature took over pest-control duties. For some, it took up to a year, depending on how "conditioned" the landscape was to receiving those regular spray applications, but in all cases, rebalancing did eventually take place. And everyone describes with enthusiasm the variety of creatures now visting or living in their landscape!

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