Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

Southwestern Deserts

October, 2000
Regional Report

Transplant Landscape Plants

Choose the right plant for the right place. Determine the mature size of a plant and decide how much space your landscape offers. Other factors to consider are sun exposure, soil type, and cold hardiness. Native and desert-adapted plants will adjust to our conditions more readily than non-adapted plants.

Add Compost to Beds

Continue preparing garden beds and sowing cool-season flowers, vegetables, and herbs. Incorporate a 4- to 6-inch layer of compost into beds, as desert soils contain less than 1% organic matter, which is constantly being depleted. Compost improves drainage in clay soils, improves water and nutrient retention in sandy soils, and adds fertility to all soils. Adding compost will also attract earthworms, which improve the soil structure.

Start a Compost Pile

Now that the weather's cool, it's easier to work with your compost pile. Use a pitchfork to create a pile that measures about 3x3x3 or purchase a bin designed for the purpose. Use about 2/3 "green" matter (grass clippings, vegetable and fruit trimmings, coffee grounds), which is high in nitrogen, and about 1/3 "brown" matter (dried leaves, straw, paper products), which is high in carbon. Keep as moist as a damp sponge and turn periodically to introduce more oxygen and allow the pile to heat up.

Winter Lawn Preparation

Overseed Bermuda lawns with winter rye from mid-October to mid-November. Mow progressively shorter until only 1/2 inch of grass is left. Sow seed when night temperatures are under 65F and day temperatures are less than 78F. Water several times per day for 5 to 10 minutes to keep soil moist until seed germinates. If you don\'t overseed Bermuda, fertilize it lightly with potassium to help it come out of dormancy in the spring.

Monitor Water Needs

It's important to continue to water slowly and deeply to moisten a plant's entire root zone and to leach salts in our soils below the roots to avoid salt burn. However, it isn't necessary to water as frequently as temperatures cool. Overly moist soil encourages root rot. For established trees, water should penetrate 3 feet deep. For shrubs, water should penetrate about 2 feet deep, and for annual flowers, vegetables, and herbs about 1 foot.


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