Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

Southwestern Deserts

December, 2001
Regional Report

Buy Blooming Holiday Plants

Poinsettia, Christmas cactus and cyclamen provide a boost of color to holiday decorating. All take bright light indoors, but don't let them sit too close to glass windows and patio doors where they can burn in direct sun. Don't overwater these plants. Poke your finger into the soil. When it is dry to about one inch deep, water slowly and deeply. If the plants have decorate foil wraps, take it off when watering so water doesn't collect and promote root rot.

Buy a Christmas Tree

To check for freshness, bend a few needles between your fingers. They should be soft and pliable. If they snap and break, look for another tree. Another test is to grab the tree by the trunk, lift it a couple of inches and "thunk" it on the ground. If lots of needles drop, it's not fresh. Keep the tree in bright light indoors, but not direct sun. Keep well-watered. Place a couple handfuls of ice cubes on the surface of the soil daily. As the cubes slowly melt, they provide a slow deep watering.

Harvest Citrus

Rind color is not a reliable indication of ripeness. The skin can still be green, but the fruit is sweet. When the temperature is cold enough, rinds start turning from green to yellow or green to orange, depending on the fruit. This month, navel and sweet oranges, mandarins and tangelo are probably ready for harvest. Grapefruit are just coming into their season. The best method to determine sweetness is to taste-test!

Plant Deciduous Fruit Trees

Apple, peach, apricot and plum can bear fruit in the low desert. Check with your County Cooperative Extension office to determine how many "chilling hours" your area averages each year. A chilling hour is defined as one hour at 45 degrees or below. Fruit tree varieties require different amounts of chilling hours to set fruit. Choose trees whose requirements match your area. If you receive 400 chilling hours, don't plant a tree that requires 600, as it will be unlikely to bear fruit.

Plant Bareroot Roses

These plants are arriving in the nurseries this month and next. Buy early to get a good selection. Some nurseries will pot them up; others wrap the root system in damp peat moss or sawdust. Keep the roots moist until you plant. Plunge the entire plant in a bucket of water and let it soak 8 to 24 hours before planting. Plant where they receive at least 6 hours of full sun daily. Protection from hot afternoon sun is best.


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