Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

Southwestern Deserts

February, 2002
Regional Report

Fertilize Landscape Plants

Apply fertilize at the edge of a plant\'s canopy, or dripline, as new growth begins to appear. Most native plants do not require fertilizer as they are well adapted to desert soils. Overfertilizing promotes excessive growth. Do not fertilize frost-tender exotics, such as lantana, bougainvillea, hibiscus and natal plum, until all danger of freeze is over, usually mid-March in the low desert.

Transplant Warm-Season Vegetables

To get a jumpstart on the season, tomato, pepper and eggplant can be transplanted now, but they must be protected from possible frost. Plant where they receive 6 to 8 hours of full sun daily. Incorporate plenty of compost in the soil, and mix a source of phosphorus into the bottom of the planting hole. Phosphorus promotes flowering and fruiting. Water well immediately and keep soil moist, but not wet, until the root system establishes.

Pull Weeds!

Moisture coupled with warming soil means weed seeds start germinating. Pull them as soon as they appear so they don\'t compete with your plants for nutrients and water. Don\'t let them go to seed. One of the reasons weeds are so successful is they produce a few zillion seeds per plant. Weed plants are a good source of nitrogen for the compost pile as long as they haven\'t gone to seed.

Fertilize Roses

Roses start their major bloom cycle in the low desert in April. Fertilize bushes now to help prepare them. Use a fertilizer formulated for roses or an organic fertilizer that contains nitrogen and phosphorus. Most desert soils have sufficient potassium. Add one-quarter cup of epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) per bush to help prevent magnesium deficiency. Water soil well before and after applying fertilizers to prevent root burn.

Finish Pruning Chores

If you have not already done so, finish pruning roses, nonnative deciduous shade trees, deciduous fruit trees and grapes. Wait to prune native plants, frost-tender tropicals and spring-flowering shrubs. Use sharp tools and disinfect pruners between plants so you don't inadvertently spread diseases.


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