Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

Southwestern Deserts

June, 2004
Regional Report

Increase Container Watering

Containers dry out quickly in summer heat. Annual flowers and vegetables often need daily watering, succulents perhaps weekly. Layer several inches of mulch on top of the soil to maintain soil moisture and reduce soil temperatures. Protect containers from hot afternoon sun. Another trick is to put a potted container inside a larger one and fill the space between with insulation, such as crumpled paper or styrofoam peanuts. This keeps the sun's rays from directly hitting the pot with the plant.

Transplant Palm Trees

Most landscape plants do better when planted in the fall, but palm trees thrive with summer transplanting. Choose a palm that has a mature height and width that will fit its allotted space. Dig a hole as deep as the root ball and two to three times as wide. Do not amend the backfill or apply fertilizer. Maintain moist soil for six to eight weeks while the roots establish, but don't overwater. After one year, palms can be fertilized. Use a product formulated especially for palms, as they often suffer from nutrient deficiencies in desert soil.

Harvest Deciduous Fruit

Peaches, plums, apricots, and apples are ripening. Birds know that too, and they seem determined to poke holes in as many fruits as possible. Protect entire trees with bird netting, or wrap each fruit loosely in a paper bag. Then hire a few dozen cats to lounge beneath the trees.

Collect Seeds

Collect seeds from cool-season annuals and spring-blooming wildflowers to sow elsewhere in the garden next year. Hold a paper bag beneath dried seed heads and tap the seeds into the bag. Or cut the entire blossom and put it in the bag to continue drying. Seeds will pop off when ready. Clean out chaff and store the seeds in a cool, dry place. Alternatively, let the flower heads dry and self sow in place. Volunteer plants will appear when conditions are optimum.

Water Cacti and Succulents

These plants have evolved with interesting mechanisms to survive in arid climates, but that doesn't mean they can live indefinitely without water. June is usually the hottest, driest month and the most difficult one for plants, as the summer monsoons are still a month or more away. If there are no rains, water cacti and yucca about every four weeks. Succulents such as euphorbia, aloe, and agave may need watering every one to two weeks.


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