Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

Southwestern Deserts

July, 2007
Regional Report

Water Lawns Efficiently

Set timers to water lawns between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. to reduce water loss to evaporation from sun and wind and so grass blades will dry quickly as the sun rises. Watering late at night is less desirable because prolonged wet, cooler conditions promote fungal diseases. Where temperatures are above 90 degrees F, water every 2 to 3 days; if temperatures are below 90, water every 3 to 5 days. With each irrigation, water should penetrate through the Bermuda roots to a depth of 8 to 10 inches. If water runs off into the street before soaking the appropriate depth, you likely need to aerate and/or dethatch your lawn to improve water and air penetration. Also, program the timer to start and stop with several cycles to complete one irrigation, thus allowing water time to soak in.

Sow Pumpkin Seeds

Improve garden soil with a 4- to 6-inch layer of compost. Add nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizer according to package instructions and dig it in to a depth of 12 to 18 inches. If your soil is heavy clay, adding gypsum or soil sulfur can improve drainage somewhat, but it is not a cure-all. Pumpkins are heavy water users, so mulch soil with several inches of organic mulch to retain moisture. Small and mini pumpkins perform better in the low desert than the large Jack-o'-lantern types.

Plant Palm Trees

Palms are one of the few landscape plants that actually thrive when planted in the heat of summer. Avoid queen palms, which suffer from iron chlorosis in the desert. Although iron is available in the soil, their root systems have difficulty absorbing it, and the fronds always look yellow without regular fertilizer or supplements.

Pollinate by Hand

If fruit isn't developing on squash, melons, gourds and cukes, try hand-pollinating. These vining crops have female flowers (with a tiny fruit behind the flower) and male flowers (without the fruit behind the flower). Pollination occurs when pollen is transferred from stamens on the male to pistils on the female. A stamen has a slender stalk called a filament, topped by an anther, which is often yellow. The anther contains pollen. A pistil consists of an ovary at the base where seeds form and a stalk-like tube called a style. The style has the stigma on top, which receives the pollen. Hand-pollinate by taking a small artist's paintbrush or Q-tip and picking up some pollen and brushing it onto the stigma.

Monitor Rainwater Flow

During summer storms, watch where rainwater naturally flows off the eaves onto the ground. Document this with a sketch or photos. When weather cools (or if you don't mind the heat), create gentle paths and depressions (called swales) to make use of the rain. Swales allow water to collect and soak into the root zone. Keep swales 8 to 10 feet away from the home's foundation.


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