Southwestern Deserts

January, 2004
Regional Report

Plant Herbs

Sow seeds or plant transplants of chives, garlic chives, cilantro, thyme, parsley, dill, and chamomile. Seeds take longer to germinate in colder winter soil, so transplants provide a jumpstart. Sow a few catnip seeds for your favorite feline!

Plant Bareroot Deciduous Fruit Trees

The low desert doesn\'t provide sufficient cold weather for many deciduous fruits to thrive and set fruit. Check with your County Cooperative Extension office for your region\'s average annual number of chilling hours. (Arizona\'s low desert averages about 400 chilling hours.) If purchasing trees at a local nursery, they will likely have appropriate varieties, but if ordering from elsewhere, be sure to check this number.

Check for Aphids

Aphids are cool-season pests that suck the juices from tender new plant growth on many landscape plants as well as flowers and vegetables. They are small, soft-bodied, and usually green or grayish black. Check plants daily and if you spot aphids, wash them off with a blast of water from the hose. Beneficial insects (ladybugs, green lacewings, praying mantids) like to make a meal of aphids, so avoid pesticides and the good guys will take care of the bad guys for you.

Maintain Winter Lawns

Don't overwater winter rye lawns, which promotes fungal diseases. Water every 5 to 10 days, to a depth of 4 to 6 inches. Stick a screwdriver in the ground an hour or two after watering. It will penetrate moist soil and stop at dry hard soil. Fertilize no more than once per month. Too much fertilizer promotes excessive growth and fertilizer runoff.

Fertilize Container Plants

Container plants quickly use up available nutrients and roots can\'t move out into the surrounding soil to seek more. In addition, the more frequent watering required for containers washes away nutrients. Put your containers on a regular fertilizing program, depending on the product. Follow package instructions. Slow-release fertilizers are time-savers as they last two or three months, although they are generally more expensive.

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