Southwestern Deserts

June, 2004
Regional Report

Increase Watering Frequency

As temperatures rise, increase the frequency of watering. The same amount of water should be applied year-round, it's the frequency between waterings that should change. Apply sufficient water to soak 1 foot deep for small plants and succulents, 2 feet deep for shrubs, and 3 feet deep for trees. Use a soil probe to determine how far water soaks. The probe will move easily through moist soil and balk at dry, hard soil.

Clean Bird Feeders and Baths

If you provide food or water, it is essential to keep the receptacles clean to prevent the spread of disease. Scrub birdbaths every few days with 9 parts water and 1 part bleach and let them dry in the sun. Sugar-water feeders for hummingbirds should also be cleaned between each filling. Rake up around bird feeders and remove droppings.

Protect Sun-Sensitive Succulents

Many succulents do better in filtered light or with protection from direct afternoon sun, especially if they are in containers. Move pots under trees or house eaves. If your rock garden is taking a beating, erect a temporary shade structure. Make hoops by bending wire or PVC pipe, and drape shade cloth over them.

Transplant Sweetpotato Slips

Loosen soil to a depth of 12 inches and incorporate a 4- to 6-inch layer of organic matter, such as compost or well-aged manure, and a fertilizer containing nitrogen and phosphorus, such as ammonium phosphate (16-20-0). Space slips (baby plantlets) about 12 inches apart. Maintain moist soil conditions for 7 to 10 days. Layer mulch on top of the soil to maintain moisture and reduce temperatures. As plants grow and establish, it may be possible to reduce watering frequency.

Harvest Basil

Snip back basil frequently to promote bushiness and keep those tender, tasty leaves coming. Basil planted in the ground usually doesn't require fertilizer if soil is reasonably rich. A layer of compost around the base will add nutrients to the soil as it decomposes. In containers, use a slow-release product or dilute a regular fertilizer.

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