Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

Southwestern Deserts

May, 2005
Regional Report

Watch for Orange Dog Caterpillars

Swallowtail butterflies flit around citrus where they lay their eggs. The larvae hatch as orange dog caterpillars, which resemble brown and white mottled bird droppings (an effective camouflage). They eat a few leaves but won't hurt an otherwise healthy citrus tree.

Sow Sunflowers

Sow seeds in improved garden soil. Keep consistently moist until germination. Tall varieties can provide shade for smaller plants that will enjoy protection from afternoon sun.

Reprogram Timers

Adjust automatic timers to water more frequently as weather warms. How often to water depends on the type of plant material, its maturity, how quickly the soil drains, temperature, wind, and other variables at your site. It's best to water slowly, deeply, and as infrequently as possible. Deep watering pushes salts in the soil and water past the root zones.

Mulch Tomatoes and Peppers

Layer organic mulch around tomatoes and peppers to maintain soil moisture and reduce soil temperatures. If you let tomato plants sprawl rather than tie them up, straw makes an excellent mulch and "clean bed" to keep the tomatoes off the wet soil.

Plant Bermuda Lawns

Install warm-season Bermuda grass after soil warms up from mid-May through August in the low desert. Higher desert elevations should wait until mid-June. Bermuda can be started from seed, sod, or stolons. It is important to prepare the soil before planting to grow a healthy lawn that can compete with weeds.


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