Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

Southwestern Deserts

November, 2009
Regional Report

Plant a Kid's Bean Tepee

Use at least three 6- to 8-foot poles as your supports. The more poles, the sturdier the tepee and the more plant weight it will support. Set the poles firmly in the ground several feet apart in a triangle shape and lash them together at the top with a strong cord. Wrap string or other ties around the tepee every 8 to 12 inches so the vines have something to climb on. Leave an opening in the front for your young (and old!) tepee dwellers to enter. Plant climbing bean (or sweet pea or other climbers) seeds around the outside edge of the tepee and keep them consistently moist until they germinate. As they begin to grow, train them up the tepee until they start climbing on their own. Spread several inches of a dry mulch, such as heavy chipped straw, on the floor of the tepee for kids to sit on.

Continue Harvesting Citrus

Taste-test citrus fruit for flavor, as the longer it stays on the tree, the sweeter it becomes. Navel and Arizona sweet oranges may be ready for harvest now, but grapefruit and Valencia oranges usually sweeten up later. Tangerines, tangelos, lemons, limes, kumquats, and limequats may be ready for picking now.

Planting Bulbs

You can still plant spring-blooming bulbs this month in the low desert if you haven't done so already. Mix a phosphorus-rich fertilizer such as bone meal into the bottom of the planting hole to promote bloom. Bulbs that were planted earlier this fall may be poking up green shoots now. Keep soil moderately moist, but don't overwater or bulbs can rot. A 2-inch layer of mulch will help maintain soil moisture.

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.

Holiday Plant Care

Provide blooming holiday plants such as poinsettia and Christmas cactus with bright light, but keep them out of direct sunlight and cold drafts and away from heating units. Maintain consistent soil moisture. Take off the colorful foil wraps when watering, so water can run out the drainage holes and not sit in the base of the pot and rot the plant's roots.


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