Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

Southwestern Deserts

October, 2010
Regional Report

Sow Wildflowers

Choose a site that gets full sun at least six hours per day. Very lightly rake the ground to loosen the soil, no more than one inch deep. This provides good contact between the soil particles and the seeds, which promotes germination, but doesn't stir up the weed seeds lying in wait. Wildflowers don't need any soil amendments or fertilizer. They are adapted to grow in our existing conditions and feeding them will promote lots of foliage at the expense of blooms. Keep the area lightly moist until the seedlings start to sprout. As they grow, reduce watering. Wildflowers perform really well with the slow steady winter rains, but if drought conditions continue, do not let the soil completely dry out.

Feed, Water and Mulch Roses

Coming out of a long hot summer, roses need some attention to support their second round of blooming in fall. Apply a slow-release, dry fertilizer formulated for roses or flowering plants. Local rosarians also recommend dissolving 1 teaspoon of chelated iron in water to inhibit iron chlorosis, which is somewhat common on roses grown in desert soils. This deficiency appears as yellow leaves with green veins. After 6 weeks, fertilize with liquid fertilizer every other week up to December. Stop fertilizing during winter. Fertilizing promotes tender new growth, which is susceptible to frost damage. Water immediately after feeding. Water should penetrate 2 feet deep for established roses. Rake up litter around bushes and spread spread several inches of fresh organic mulch around the base. Allow 2 or 3 inches of empty space around the stem, so that wet mulch doesn't contact the stem tissue.

Decide if you Need a Winter Lawn

If you have Bermuda grass, conserve water by letting it go dormant in winter. Irrigate once monthly to a depth of 8 to 10 inches. No mowing is needed. Grass will remain somewhat green until cold weather hits, usually around Thanksgiving, then begin reviving and greening up again as temperatures warm. If you choose to overseed Bermuda with ryegrass seed for a green winter lawn, do so between mid-October and mid-November when night temperatures remain below 65. Water rye two times daily for 10 to 15 minutes for the first two weeks. Reduce to one watering every other day for 15 to 20 minutes the third week. Thereafter, water every 5 to 10 days, depending on soil and weather. Water should soak 4 to 6 inches deep.

Plant Bulbs

Choose a site that has morning sun and protection from late afternoon sun in the summer. Layer the bed with 6 inches of compost and dig it in to a depth of 18 inches. A rule of thumb is to plant bulbs about 2 to 3 times as deep as their diameter. Put a teaspoon of phosphorus fertilizer in the bottom of the planting hole to promote bloom.

Examine Agaves

Check agaves for signs of rotting and collapse. This signals they have been attacked by agave weevils and must be completely dug and put in the trash. Do not replant the same space with an agave, as the weevil larvae may still be in nearby soil.


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