Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

Southwestern Deserts

May, 2001
Regional Report

Protect Deciduous Fruit

Cover apple, peach, and apricot trees with netting to prevent birds from pecking at fruit. Try hanging items that wave in the breeze such as reflective tape or aluminum pie pans to scare birds away. Wait until fruit is ripening before hang scare reflectors, and use a combination of tactics so birds don't get accustomed to any one technique.

Butterflies on Citrus

Yellow and black swallowtail butterflies might be seen swooping around citrus trees this month. They deposit eggs that turn into orange dog caterpillars. The caterpillars camouflage themselves by resembling brown, grey, and white bird droppings. They cause little damage so leave them alone and you will have more lovely butterflies to enjoy.

Hand-Pollinate Vegetables

If squash or other cucurbits aren\'t setting fruit due to a lack of pollinating bees, try hand-pollinating. Use a small paintbrush or cotton swab to rub pollen from male flowers on female flowers. Female flowers have a small swollen area at the base which is the future fruit. If tomatoes aren\'t setting, tap or pat plants lightly in the morning when pollen is most viable to help them pollinate.

Fertilize Citrus

Apply one-third of the tree\'s total annual nitrogen requirement in April or May. Water the tree well immediately after applying to help prevent fertilizer burn. If using a granular fertilizer, mix it in a bucket of water and pour it around the base of the tree. In desert soils, citrus usually needs only nitrogen, so use a product specially formulated for citrus.

Maintain Spring Bulbs

Some spring blooming bulbs such as freesia, crocosmia, Dutch iris, tritonia, and daffodils have reached the end of their flowering season. Let the foliage brown and dry naturally since it will provide nutrients to the bulb for next year's growth and bloom. Other bulbs, such as bearded iris and watsonia are still blooming. Put a layer of mulch around them to maintain cool and moist soil.


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