Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

Southwestern Deserts

November, 2000
Regional Report

Fertilize Vegetable Gardens

Depending on your soil\'s fertility, you may need to apply a nitrogen fertilizer to your vegetable garden. Cool-season veggies require a lot of nitrogen, which is quickly used up in desert soils. Water the soil deeply the day before, and then water in the fertilizer after you apply it. This will help prevent fertilizer burn to tender roots. Organic sources of nitrogen include sea kelp, bird guano, and fish emulsion.

Continue Transplanting

You can continue transplanting landscape trees and shrubs, but it\'s best to choose those that are not frost sensitive. Wait until next spring to plant bougainvillea, hibiscus, natal plum, lantana, and citrus, as they won\'t have time to develop root systems and harden off before a potential frost.

Reduce Watering Frequencies

Now that temperatures are dropping, cut back on how often you water. Overwatering in cool weather is a significant problem in the Southwest, as native and desert-adapted plants don't like their roots to sit in wet soil. Continue to water deeply through the plant's entire root zone, but don't water as frequently as you do during hot weather.

Wildflower Seedling Maintenance

If you sowed wildflower seed in October, it should be germinating, and tiny seedlings should be appearing. Make sure the soil is somewhat moist until they reach several inches high. Then allow the soil to just barely dry out between waterings to help toughen them up. As difficult as it might be, thin seedlings that are too crowded. Snip them off at the base with scissors to prevent disturbing the roots of seedlings you want to keep. Or you can try transplanting them into blank areas, keeping as much soil intact on the root system as possible.

Overseed Winter Lawns

If you haven\'t yet done so, overseed summer Bermuda lawns with winter rye grass. Mow existing grass progressively lower until only 1/2 inch is left. Sow rye 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 the rye seed germinates. Then reduce watering to 1 to 2 times per week.


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