Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

Southwestern Deserts

July, 2008
Regional Report

Sow Native Seeds

Sow seeds for native crops that were traditionally timed to germinate with the monsoon thunderstorms. Try gourds, squash, corn, and devil's claw. Native varieties are better adapted to our alkaline soil, sun, and heat, and don't require as much soil amending or water as hybrids.

Hose Off Cochineal Scale

Prickly pear cacti are susceptible to cochineal scale, a teeny insect that exudes a white, cottony-looking substance as protection. It spreads across the cacti pads, although usually at a slow rate. The best solution is to spray it off periodically with a forceful blast of water from the hose.

Water Veggies Carefully

Large-leafed vegetable plants, such as melons and squash, sometimes wilt in the afternoon even though soil is moist. Wait until morning to see if plants have perked up. In the hot afternoon they may not be able to uptake water fast enough, but they might recover overnight. Continuing to apply water will drown their roots and encourage rot.

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 rootball 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.

Cull Split Citrus

Insufficient water early in the growing season is the cause of citrus fruit splitting in hot weather now. Lack of water inhibits the rind's expansion as the fruit grows larger. There's nothing to do at this point but remove split fruit. Keep mature citrus trees watered to a depth of 3 feet and out to the edge of their canopy throughout the year to alleviate this problem.


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