Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

Southwestern Deserts

March, 2011
Regional Report

Look Out for Ladybeetles

Ladybeetles, ladybugs, ladybird beetles. Whatever you call them, they are aphid-munching machines. Learn to recognize all their life stages so you don%%%t mistakenly destroy them. The adult%%%s red or orange body with black spots is well known. Adults lay clusters of orange eggs near aphids. When they hatch, the larvae start eating the aphids. Larvae are bluish-black and orange with a beaded texture and a tapered body. After eating voraciously, they pupate. The pupal stage is roundish, black and orange and slightly smaller than the adult.

Dealing with Frost Damaged Plants

Most frost-damaged plants in the low desert have popped out with fresh foliage by now and any remaining dead branches can be removed. If you reside in a cold microclimate or higher elevations, you may have some laggers. Keep in mind that the same plants in the same area that are all cared for in the same way can exhibit genetic variation. Some might be in full leaf, while another is still gearing up. I give them all chance to rejuvenate, but if you prefer, transplant now to give roots time to establish before summer heat.

Sharpen Lawn Mower Blades

Warm season grasses are perking up and will soon need regular mowing. Sharpen mower blades to make sure you get clean straight cuts on the grass blades. Dull mowers tear the grass leaf tips, leaving jagged edges that can%%%t heal quickly and turn brown. Not only does this look unhealthy, it creates opening points for diseases.

Let Salad Greens Bolt

As temperatures warm in the low and mid deserts, cool-season veggies such as arugula and leaf lettuce that have been producing all winter will bolt, which means send up flower stalks and go to seed. At this point, the greens become bitter and most gardeners yank them. However, the flower stalks can be surprisingly pretty covered with small white or yellow flowers that attract all sorts of pollinators. Let a few of these plants remain to keep pollinators coming while you switch over to your summer garden.

Watch Water Needs in Windy Weather

Spring winds in the desert can really dry out plant material, especially moisture lovers such as vegetables, annual flowers, fruit trees, and exotics. Keep an eye on your plants and soil, adding an extra irrigation if needed.


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