Southwestern Deserts

December, 2004
Regional Report

Buy Christmas Trees

If you purchase a live, rooted tree in a container, plunge it into a larger pail of water. Let it soak until the root ball is saturated before bringing it indoors. Place live trees in a sunny location, and keep soil moist. Instead of trying to water beneath the tree's canopy, put a handful of ice cubes on top of the soil and they will melt and soak in. For cut trees, saw off 2 to 3 inches of the trunk immediately before putting it in a tree stand. A fresh cut allows the tree to soak up water and maintain fresh needles. Check the stand daily and add water as needed to keep the needles from drying and dropping too quickly. Locate trees away from heating elements, fireplaces, blowers, and direct sun.

Pull Winter Weeds

Winter weeds pop up greedily after rain. Yank them as soon as they appear. If done when they are small, it's a fairly easy task. Toss them into the compost pile (with no seed heads) as a source of nitrogen.

Thin Wildflowers

No matter how carefully sown, wildflowers seem to come up in clumps. Thin seedlings to allow 8 to 12 inches between plants. If crowded, they will grow spindly and have reduced vigor for producing flowers in the spring. Snip them at the base with scissors to avoid uprooting neighboring seedlings.

Prepare to Harvest Citrus

Navel and sweet oranges, mandarins, and tangelos are sweetening on the tree. The longer citrus stays on the tree, the sweeter it becomes. Rind color is not a reliable indicator for harvesting. Even when rinds are green, the fruit may be sweet. When the temperature is cold enough, rinds start turning from green to orange. The most reliable indicator: the taste test!

Clean Birdbaths

Even though temperatures aren't searing, our feathered friends still need clean drinking water. Scrub birdbaths regularly with a 10 percent bleach solution (1 part bleach to 9 parts water) to prevent the spread of disease. If possible, provide a moving or flowing source of water, which generally stays clean longer than a standing source.

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