Southwestern Deserts

March, 2004
Regional Report

Attend Spring Plant Sales

Check with your local botanical garden or arboretum for dates of spring plant sales. These are well worth a visit, as they feature a large selection of well-adapted plants, many of which are difficult to obtain elsewhere. Enormous selection is available in one place, and staff are on hand to answer questions. Lectures and other events are held during the plant sales so it\'s a great resource for learning about plants if you are contemplating a new or renovated landscape.

Pull Winter Weeds

Recent rains have sprouted a profusion of winter weeds, including ubiquitous mustard. Pull them as soon as possible and toss in the compost pile as a good source of nitrogen. Don't let them flower and go to seed because zillions of seeds will lie in wait in the soil, ready to sprout again year after year.

Transplant Tomatoes and Peppers

Transplant tomatoes and peppers into improved garden soil in the low desert. Add a layer of organic mulch around plants to maintain soil moisture and reduce weeds. Monitor weather forecasts for late frosts, and protect plants if needed. Intermediate elevations should wait to transplant until after the last frost date, usually late March to mid-April. Contact your county cooperative extension office for average frost dates in your specific area.

Fertilize Deciduous Fruit Trees

Apply nitrogen to deciduous fruit trees -- including apple, peach, apricot, and plum -- when temperatures warm and just as new leaf growth starts. Make sure the last frost date has passed because fertilizing stimulates new growth that is susceptible to frost damage. Apply fertilizer at the outer edge of the tree's canopy where its roots absorb nutrients and water. Water well immediately after applying.

Transplant Landscape Plants

Transplant native or desert-adapted trees, shrubs, perennials, vines, ground covers, cacti, and succulents. Before buying plants, determine the sun exposure they will be planted in and how much space is available. Choose plants whose mature size meets the space you have so you don\'t have to prune to keep them in bounds. Select plants that provide multiple benefits, such as shade, color, fragrance, fruit, and wildlife habitat.

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