Southwestern Deserts

July, 2003
Regional Report

Plant Okra

Heat-loving okra seeds germinate easily in warm soil, and plants grow by leaps and bounds. Okra produces pods until the plant freezes, as long as they are harvested regularly, usually every couple of days.

Solarize Soil

If improved garden beds have been plagued by weeds or nematodes the last couple of years, consider solarizing the soil (if you don't mind working in the heat). Layer manure or compost -- the fresher, the better -- over the bed. Water well. Cover with clear plastic that is at least 4 mm thick. Secure the edges of the plastic to keep in moisture and heat. The combination of heat from the sun, nitrogen in the manure, and water will "cook" the soil, heating it up to 140 degrees F or more. This intense heat will kill many weed seeds, fungi, and nematodes.

Watch for Spider Mites

My garden experienced an exceedingly light dusting of rain followed by a heavy dusting of dust. During the summer monsoon's blowing winds, plants get coated with dust. Spider mites thrive in these conditions. Wash off dusty plants with a blast of water from the hose. Do this early in the morning so plants can dry before the hot sun hits and burns plant tissue.

Protect Vegetables

Keep melons, squash, cukes, and tomatoes off moist soil by spreading a layer of clean straw around the plants. This prevents the fruit from rotting and the resultant pest invasion. If straw is not available, try a clean board, shredded office paper, or other dry mulch material.

Pick a Bouquet for a Friend

Don't forget to pick some of the summer-blooming zinnias, sunflowers, gaillardia, coreopsis, and salvia. Make a bouquet for a friend. It will promote continued bloom for your plants, and the fresh flowers will be sure to bring a smile to someone's face during these hot summer days!

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