Southwestern Deserts

October, 2003
Regional Report

Initiate Reblooming of Holiday Plants

If you saved Christmas cacti and poinsettias from last year, it's time to prepare them for repeat bloom. They need a period of darkness to set flower buds. Put them in total darkness for 12 to 14 hours daily for two months. Place a cardboard box over them in a closet and take them out during the day. Water when the top of the soil is dry. Use a phosphorus fertilizer to promote flowering.

Prepare Garden Beds

Pull spent warm-season flowers and vegetables and put them in the compost pile. Layer 4 to 6 inches of organic matter on top of the bed. Apply nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers according to package instructions. If drainage is a problem, add gypsum or soil sulfur. Dig it all in to a depth of 12 to 18 inches. Water and let it sit for a week. Pull any weeds that germinate.

Sow Wildflower Seeds

Choose seeds native to your area. Mix seeds with sand to promote uniform sowing. Select a sunny location, one with at least 8 hours of full sun daily. Very lightly rake the area. (Too much raking disturbs weed seeds, encouraging them to germinate.) Do not cover wildflower seeds any deeper than 1/16 of an inch. Keep soil moist for about 4 to 6 weeks until seeds germinate and reach about 2 inches in height. Soak the area every few weeks, if needed. If winter rains are heavy, this won\'t be necessary.

Transplant Landscape Plants

Fall planting is best because root systems have 7 or 8 months to establish roots before summer heat returns. Transplant trees, shrubs, vines, ground covers, perennials, cacti, and other succulents. Dig a planting hole as deep as the root ball and 3 to 5 times as wide. This wide area promotes good root spread into the surrounding soil. Do not amend the backfill or apply fertilizer. Soak the plant's entire root system and keep soil moist (not wet) for several weeks after transplanting. Gradually taper off watering as roots establish.

Propagate Cacti and Succulents

Propagate cacti with joints, such as prickly pears and chollas, by cutting with a clean, sharp knife at the joint. Separate aloe and agave "pups" from the parent, retaining as much root as possible. To prevent disease, allow the open cuts to dry for a week before transplanting. These plants require well-drained soil. Water after transplanting, and to prevent root rot, let soil dry out before watering again.

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