Southwestern Deserts

December, 2004
Regional Report

Maintain Flowering Holiday Plants

Keep soil moisture consistent for holiday favorites, such as Christmas cactus, poinsettia, and amaryllis. Place them in as bright a location as possible. Keep away from heating ducts or cold drafts. Remove the decorative foil when you water so it doesn't accumulate and drown the roots, or allow salty water to be reabsorbed. Use an all-purpose houseplant or blooming plant fertilizer every two weeks.

Protect Frost-Tender Plants

Monitor weather forecasts and be ready to cover non-native tropicals, such as citrus, bougainvillea, hibiscus, natal plum, and lantana, as well as tender annual flowers and vegetables. Cover plants with burlap, old sheets, or frost cloth. The cover should drape to the ground to trap radiant heat from the soil. Remove it in the morning before temperatures rise. Move container plants into sheltered locations, such as next to buildings or walls that radiate heat or beneath eaves.

Plant Cool-Season Flowers

Transplant geraniums, Iceland poppies, nasturiums, pansies, violas, Johnny-jump-ups, petunias, primroses, petunias, stocks, and sweet peas into a sunny location for a show of color.

Toss the Compost

Use a pitchfork to turn that wonderful rotting organic matter and introduce fresh oxygen into the pile for the zillions of microorganisms doing the decomposition. Sprinkle the material with water to moisten it as you go. If you wait to wet the entire pile from the top, water just finds a quick channel to the bottom, puddling on the ground and not moistening most of the organic matter. When the pile dries out and oxygen is depleted, decomposition will slow down. The more you turn and water, the faster you\'ll have compost!

Plant Cool-Season Vegetables

Continue to transplant broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and cabbage. Sow seeds for root crops, such as beets, carrots, radishes and turnips; and leafy greens, such as lettuce, spinach, mustard and collard greens, chard, and kale. Seeds may be slower to germinate in winter's cool soil than they were in the fall.

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