Southwestern Deserts

July, 2004
Regional Report

Solarize Gardens

Layer manure or other fresh organic matter on top of the garden, water thoroughly, and cover with clear, heavy plastic. (Black plastic is not as effective since it doesn't let the sun through and the soil doesn't get as hot.) Let it "cook" for six to eight weeks. Soil temperatures heat up to 140 degrees F or more. This heat kills weed seeds, harmful nematodes, and disease organisms. Earthworms head south into the soil, so they won't be killed.

Maintain Water Sources for Habitats

If you provide bird baths, stones with indented \"drinking\" areas, or other standing water sources for creatures who visit your landscape, make sure they are disinfected regularly and the water is always fresh. Use a 10 percent bleach solution (9 parts water, 1 part bleach) to scrub the receptacles and then let them dry in the sun. If you are going on vacation, have a neighbor kid perform this task. It\'s essential to keep the sources clean to prevent the spread of disease, and if animals are conditioned to drink in your yard, it\'s cruel to curtail it!

Recognizing Black Widow Spiders

Watch for these intriguing creatures, which are often active when temperatures warm during summer. They are not to be feared, as they will seldom seek out humans for any contact, unless they feel threatened. They are efficient predators of annoying cockroaches and crickets, so unless their webs are hanging at your front door, leave them be! The females are recognized by their shiny blackness and a red "hourglass" shape on their decidedly round bellies.

Collect Rainwater

Summer monsoons have arrived, and rooftops make incredibly efficient water-gathering devices. Use rain gutters to direct water into collection barrels, or to a specific area in the landscape to water plants. If you store rainwater, make sure it's in an airtight container so mosquitoes can't breed, or use "mosquito dunks" in the water to control them.

Controlling Spider Mites

Along with the blowing winds and dust from summer monsoon storms come the spider mites. These miniscule, eight-legged creatures thrive on dusty plants, being especially fond of roses. Hose off dusty plant foliage regularly to prevent mite populations from gaining the upper hand.

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