Southwestern Deserts

October, 2003
Regional Report

Tend Wildflower Beds

As seeds germinate, you may need to cover them with bird netting to prevent feathered visitors from snapping up tender seedlings. Monitor regularly for weeds so they don't get out of hand and take over the bed. Keep soil moist, but not wet, until seedlings reach about 1 to 2 inches in height. Then gradually reduce watering to an occasional deep soak.

Transplant Desert-Adapted Trees

Determine the species' mature height and width before buying. Choose trees that will fit your space as they grow and reach maturity. Don't plant tall growers beneath power lines or widely spreading canopies next to the neighbor's driveway. Well-adapted trees include desert willow, ironwood, palo verde, palo brea, mesquite, sweet acacia, Texas ebony, Texas mountain laurel, cascalote, and lysiloma.

Plant Containers

Use a good quality potting mix that contains pumice or perlite to enhance drainage. Don't use dirt from the garden. Mix a slow-release fertilizer into the soil mix. For oversize containers, layer the bottom with styrofoam packing peanuts to reduce weight and the amount of soil required. Water immediately after planting and keep soil moist until plants establish. If temperatures remain high, set the pot in a location with morning sun and afternoon protection to reduce transplant shock.

Prepare Bulb Beds

Bulbs need rich, organic soil that's well-drained, similar to vegetable or annual flower beds. Layer 4 to 6 inches of compost or well-decomposed manure on top of the bed. Apply nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers according to package instructions. Gypsum or soil sulfur will improve drainage. Add according to package instructions. Incorporate it all to a depth of 12 to 18 inches. When planting bulbs, mix a phosphorus fertilizer into the bottom of the planting hole.

Watch for Whiteflies

Some areas seem to be experiencing whitefly problems. Look on the undersides of leaves for tiny white specks. Spray daily with a blast of water from the hose. If needed, use a soapy water spray. Use 1 teaspoon to 2 tablespoons of liquid detergent soap per gallon of water. (For some reason, Dawn seems to work better than some others.) Use regular soap, not concentrated or lemon scented. Start with the lowest concentration and add more soap if needed. Test on a few leaves before spraying the entire plant. Whiteflies reproduce rapidly so you have to remain vigilant. They will die off when temperatures cool.

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