Southwestern Deserts

July, 2005
Regional Report

Wash off Cochineal Scale

Prickly pear cacti are susceptible to cochineal scale, a teeny insect that exudes a white, cottony looking substance as protection. It spreads across the cacti pads, although usually at a slow rate. The best solution is to spray it off periodically with a forceful blast of water from the hose.

Sow Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkins are sown this month to be ready in time for Halloween. They require consistent soil moisture and are susceptible to whiteflies, which congregate in huge numbers on the undersides of the leaves. Those giant pumpkins the size of Cinderella's carriage aren't well-suited here. Stick to the smaller sizes, especially the minis!

Watch for Praying Mantids

These delightful predators may be out and about in the garden. They have long, slender bodies and sit with enlarged legs held upright to grab unsuspecting passersby. Their spherical egg casings look like hard brown styrofoam, about the size of a quarter to a half-dollar. They are often attached to plant stems or walls, so don't inadvertently destroy them as these are beneficial predators (although they eat as many good guys as bad).

Dethatch Bermuda as Needed

Thatch is a top layer of dead grass that builds up faster than it can decompose. When it's too thick, it inhibits the passage of water, oxygen, and nutrients to the roots. To determine how thick thatch is on your lawn, cut a small wedge 2 inches deep from various places using a sharp knife or trowel. If the thatch is more than 1/2 inch thick, it's time to dethatch. For large lawns, rent a dethatching machine with blades that will cut through. For small areas, a dethatching rake will suffice. Always dethatch in the midst of summer when Bermuda is actively growing so it can quickly recover.

Water Effectively

Continue to watch plants for signs of stress during the hot summer. Use a soil probe to determine how far water penetrates. It will move easily through moist soil but stop at dry, hard soil. For shallow-rooted plants, such as cacti, succulents, annuals, and perennials, water should soak 1 foot deep. For shrubs, it should soak 2 feet, and for trees, 3 feet. If water isn't soaking to this depth with each watering, add time to the irrigation cycle, add more emitters, or add emitters with a greater flow rate.

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