Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

Southwestern Deserts

February, 2004
Regional Report

Plant Bare-Root Deciduous Fruit Trees

Fruit trees require different amounts of chilling hours to set fruit. A chilling hour is one hour at 45 degrees or below. Choose varieties with chilling requirements that match your area. If you receive 400 chilling hours, don't plant a tree that requires 600, as it won't set fruit. The low desert around Phoenix averages 400 chilling hours, but some years it may receive significantly less. If you choose varieties that need less than your average, you'll increase the likelihood of fruit if the average isn't met. Ask your county cooperative extension office how many chilling hours your area averages. Apple, peach, apricot, and plum bear fruit in the low desert.


After recent rains, winter weeds are popping up like crazy. Hoe or pull them out as soon as possible. Don't let them flower or they'll produce zillions of seeds that will lurk in the soil for years to come. Toss them in the compost pile for a good source of nitrogen. Throw them in the trash if they have seed heads.

Fertilize Annuals

Annual flowers and vegetables need a lot of nutrients so they can grow, flower, and reproduce in a short time frame. If lower leaves are yellowing, plants need a boost of nitrogen. Don't overapply, which will increase foliage at the expense of flowers and fruit set. Phosphorus promotes flowering and fruiting. Desert soils typically have plenty of potassium, so it doesn't have to be added. Bone meal and blood meal can be found in one product if you prefer an organic fertilizer. Otherwise choose a balanced fertilizer, such as 5-5-5, or one with a higher middle number (phosphorus), such as 5-10-5.


Winter is pruning time for deciduous fruit trees (apple, peach, apricot), grapes, roses, and non-native deciduous trees. Don't prune native trees now or you'll eliminate their spring bloom. Prune after flowering in late spring or summer. Wait until all chance of frost is past before pruning tropicals, such as bougainvillea and hibiscus. Pruning stimulates tender new growth, which is susceptible to frost damage.

Keep Bulb Beds Moist

Fall-planted bulbs may be poking their heads above ground. Keep soil moist but not too wet. Layer a couple of inches of compost or mulch to maintain moisture. Apply a balanced fertilizer if foliage appears yellow.


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