Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

Southwestern Deserts

December, 2000
Regional Report

Cool-Season Vegetables

Continue sowing seeds for root crops, leafy greens, and cole crops. Try planting carrots, beets, onions, turnips, collard or mustard greens, bok choy, leaf lettuces (head lettuces don't develop well in the low desert), broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, spinach, and peas. Monitor leafy greens for nitrogen deficiency, which appears as yellowing on lower, older leaves. If needed, scratch fish meal or another nitrogen source into the soil several inches from the plant. Water well before and after applying.

Control Powdery Mildew

This fungal disease appears as a white, grayish powder on leaves. Rainy weather in November and cooling temperatures in December contribute to its arrival recently in many low-desert gardens. Powdery mildew thrives during cool daytime temperatures with increased humidity and poor air circulation. To prevent it, choose resistant varieties, leave space for plants to reach their full size with plenty of air and sunlight, and clean up all plant debris. If it appears, remove affected foliage immediately. Spray plants with water, as this fungus doesn\'t like wet conditions. If needed, apply dusting sulfur every 2 weeks.

Reduce Watering

If you have not already done so, reduce watering of landscape plants. During winter months, most established landscape plants can be watered once every 3-4 weeks. Water should penetrate 2 feet for shrubs, 3 feet for trees, and should be applied at the drip line (the edge of the plant\'s canopy), where actively growing roots are located. Watering near the trunk of mature trees is of no value.

Plant a Flower Bed

Numerous blooming annuals can be planted now and will continue to provide a color show for months until the heat arrives. Transplant pansies, violas, stock, snapdragons, dianthus, poppies, alyssum, lobelia, geraniums, bachelor buttons, bells of Ireland, calendula, larkspur, and nasturtiums. Keep soil moist until the transplants get established. Then water about once a week, depending on your soil type and weather conditions, to a depth of 12 inches.

Turn the Compost Pile

Cool temperatures make working the compost pile a snap. Use a pitchfork to turn the organic materials. Sprinkle with water as you go to moisten the pile if needed. The organisms that are reducing those leaves and grass clippings into usable compost require both oxygen and water to survive and reproduce. If the pile dries out, the decomposition process will continue, but at a much slower rate. Adding materials that are high in nitrogen, such as grass clippings, coffee grounds, and foliage trimmings from plants, will also heat up a slowly decomposing pile.


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