Southwestern Deserts

July, 2003
Regional Report

Sow Native Seeds

Sow seeds for native crops that were traditionally timed to germinate with the monsoon thunderstorms. Try gourds, squash, corn, and devil\'s claw. Native varieties are better adapted to our conditions and don\'t require as much soil amending or water as hybrids.

Sow Pumpkins

Mini pumpkins are easier to grow in our conditions than the jack-o-lantern sizes and set fruit prolifically. Most take about 95 days to reach maturity. They require rich soil improved with organic matter and plenty of water, so they shouldn't be considered a water-conserving crop.

Harvest Rainwater

Think positively about summer monsoons arriving and put barrels under downspouts or direct downspouts to fill basins around plants. Direct water with channels to fill basins around trees and shrubs. Use permeable pathways, rather than concrete, to allow rainwater to soak and filter into the soil instead of running off into storm drains.

Monitor Water Needs

Cacti and succulents may appear wrinkled or yellow when water stressed. Large-leafed vegetable plants, such as melons and squash, sometimes wilt in the afternoon even though soil is moist. Wait until morning to see if plants have perked up. In the hot afternoon, they may not be able to uptake water fast enough, but they might recover overnight. Continuing to apply water will drown their roots and encourage rot.

Caring for Lawns in Summer Heat

Fertilize Bermuda grass lawns once per month. Don't mow wet grass or irrigate at night, both of which promote fungal diseases in turf. Water is most efficiently applied from 3 a.m to 6 a.m., which reduces loss to wind and sun evaporation. Water should soak 8 to 10 inches deep to moisten the entire root system. Let the top inch of soil dry out before watering again, usually every 2 to 3 days. Watering daily is not necessary if sprinklers run long enough to soak the roots.

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