Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

Southwestern Deserts

August, 2001
Regional Report

Plant Okra

There's still time to sow seeds okra. This heat lover germinates readily in warm soils and grows quickly. It will continue to produce pods until frost as long as you pick them every other day or so. Young pods are more tender and tasty than older pods.

Add Iron to Plants

Non-native plants often show signs of iron chlorosis this time of year. Lack of iron shows up as yellowing new leaves while veins stay green. If there's too much water in the soil from summer thunderstorms or overwatering, iron that's in the ground can't be taken up by plants. Wet soils displace oxygen, which plant roots require to absorb iron. If symptoms appear and you aren't overwatering, apply iron chelated or ferrous sulfate fertilizers, which roots absorb.

Water Efficiently

Irrigate slowly and deeply throughout the root system. For annuals and vegetables, water should penetrate about 1 foot; for shrubs, 2 feet; and for established trees and citrus, 3 feet deep. Apply water just past a plant\'s canopy, or dripline, where the feeder roots are located. Check for signs of water stress such as wilting, drying, or yellowing leaves.

Harvest Rainwater

Heavy summer thundershowers are a great way to harvest some rainwater. It\'s as simple as putting a bucket underneath roof spouts to capture rainwater. Cover it so mosquitos don\'t breed or store the water in gallon milk jugs. Try to channel rainwater in gutters and down sprouts to soak in around tree or shrub wells, rather than run off into storm drains.

Solarize Soil

If gardens have been overrun with weeds and nematodes, use the summer heat to solarize the soil. Cover the soil with a layer of manure or compost. Rake smooth and water well. Cover with 4 mil thick clear plastic and let cook for at least 6 weeks. Soil temperatures will heat up to 140oF under the plastic, which will kill many weed seeds, fungi spores, and nematodes in the top layers of the soil.


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