Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

Southwestern Deserts

November, 2001
Regional Report

Plant Cool-Season Veggies

Sow seeds for lettuces, mustard, turnip and collard greens, chard, carrots, beets, kohlrabi and peas. Sow seeds or set out transplants for cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale and bok choy. Keep soil consistently moist until seeds germinate.

Reduce Watering

As temperatures cool, landscape plants head towards dormancy, so reduce watering frequencies. Change timer schedules on automatic systems. You should reduce the frequency of watering, but not the amount of water that is applied during each irrigation. Water should penetrate one foot deep for small plants, two feet for shrubs and three feet for trees.

Plant Colorful Perennials

There are many desert-adapted perennials that will provide color through the seasons. Some of my favorites are superstition mallow (Abutilon palmeri), which has small, cup-shaped golden flowers and velvety soft foliage; chocolate flower (Berlandiera lyrata), which smells just like it sounds; angelita daisy (Hymenoxys aucalis), which blooms almost constantly with a pretty yellow daisy like flower; and Parry\'s penstemon, which has a beautiful pink stalk of flowers, which hummingbirds love.

Plant Spring-Blooming Bulbs

In improved garden soil, plant bulbs for spring color. Put a teaspoon of bone meal in the bottom of each planting hole. Bone meal is an organic source of phosphorus, which promotes bloom. Bulbs that do well in the low desert and do not need chilling include bearded iris, Dutch iris, zephyranthes (rain lily), crinum, lycoris, watsonia, tritonia, babiana, ixia, freesia and ranunculus. Tulips don\'t perform as well, must be chilled 6-8 weeks before planting and are best treated as annuals.

Rake Leaves for Compost Pile

Yes, we do get some leaf drop in the low desert in fall! Rake up these leaves and use them for mulch around plants to reduce water loss and inhibit weeds. They are also a great source of organic matter for the soil. You can dig them right into garden beds, although they are better if allowed to decompose in the compost pile. If you don\'t have immediate need for them, bag them up and save them for later.


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