Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

Southwestern Deserts

December, 2003
Regional Report

Transplant Cool-Season Annuals

As soil temperatures cool, germination and seedling growth is often slower, so transplant from sixpacks or 4-inch pots for faster color. Incorporate a fertilizer for blooming plants into the soil. The middle number, which represents phosphorus, should be the highest, e.g., 5-10-5 or 15-30-15. Phosphorus promotes flowering.

Pansies, violas, snapdragons, calendulas, alyssum, stocks, primroses, Iceland poppies, petunias, and dusty miller provide long-lasting color.

Buy Blooming Holiday Plants

Poinsettia, Christmas cactus, amaryllis, and paper white bulbs add festive color to the home during the holiday season. Place in bright light and maintain consistent soil moisture. Use a diluted fertilizer. Keep away from drafts, heating outlets, and fireplaces.

Manage Weeds

"Manage" means yank 'em out! After rain, winter weeds are quick to sprout. Pull or hoe while they are tiny and easy to destroy. Throw them in the compost pile as a good source of nitrogen, or leave them on the ground where they will quickly decompose.

Plant Bulbs

There's still time to plant bulbs in the low desert. Bulbs need a well-drained environment or they will rot. Loosen soil to a depth of 12 inches, incorporate 4 to 6 inches of organic matter and an all purpose fertilizer for blooming plants. A sprinkle of phosphorus, such as bone meal, in the bottom of each planting hole puts the nutrient where the bulb can immediately use it. As a general guideline for determining how deep to plant, dig a hole that is two times the size of the bulb.

Water and Thin Wildflowers

If winter rains are inadequate (or non-existent), soak wildflower seedlings slowly, about once every 10 to 14 days, depending on needs. Don\'t overwater, which will promote root rot! Lay a hose on the soil and let it drip slowly rather than sprinkling from above, which may knock the tender seedlings over.


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