Southwestern Deserts

September, 2004
Regional Report

Handpick Tomato Hornworms

These are large, fat green caterpillars with a 1/4-inch "horn" protruding from their back end. They are often found on tomato plants, but they consume other foliage as well. Their coloration blends in so well with foliage that it is more likely you'll first see their dark, pellet-like droppings on the foliage beneath them or on the ground. Handpick caterpillars and destroy, or put them somewhere conspicuous for the birds to eat.

Improve Garden Soil

Spread a 4- to 6-inch layer of compost on top of garden beds. Add an organic nitrogen source, such as fish emulsion or alfalfa meal; and an organic phosphorus source, such as bone meal, according to package instructions. Most desert soils are high in potassium so it isn't necessary to add any. If soil is heavy clay and drainage is poor, add gypsum according to package instructions. Dig it all in to a depth of 12 to 18 inches.

Fertilize Citrus

Now's the time to feed citrus for the year. Apply one-third of the tree's total annual nitrogen requirement just outside of the tree's canopy or dripline. This is where feeder roots absorb water and nutrients.

Adjust Lawn Fertilizer and Watering

Continue to fertilize Bermudagrass monthly with nitrogen, or use a complete fertilizer, such as 21-7-14. If you plan to overseed with winter ryegrass from mid-October to mid-November, stop fertilizing four to six weeks in advance to slow the Bermuda's growth. Don't stop watering. If temperatures remain over 90 degrees F., water every two to three days. When temperatures drop below 90, water every three to five days.

Buy Wildflower Seeds

Seek out seeds native to your area to be ready for October planting. Read the labels on mixes to make sure the varieties perform in the low desert. Easy-to-grow choices include desert marigolds, desert bluebells, lupines, penstemons, owl\'s clover, toadflax, red flax, fleabane, gaillardia, Mexican gold poppies, and Arizona poppies.

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