Southwestern Deserts

July, 2005
Regional Report

Transplant Palm Trees

Palm trees are one of the few plant types that thrive when transplanted in low desert summer heat. Dig a hole that is as deep as the rootball and twice as wide. Do not amend the backfill with organic material. Keep soil consistently moist for 6-8 weeks until roots establish. Use a soil probe to ensure water soaks deeply through the entire root system.

Aerate Bermuda Lawns

Aerate every 2-4 years only when Bermuda is actively growing during the warm summer months. Rent a powered aerator for large lawns or use a foot press aerator for small patches. The goal is to punch small holes through the top layer of thatch and soil. This allows oxygen, moisture and nutrients to reach the grass roots.

Sow Sunflower Seeds

Sunflowers germinate easily in warm soil temperatures. Keep soil moist until germination occurs. Sow native sunflowers in time to germinate with summer monsoon rains.

Solarize Soil

If you've had problems with soil-borne diseases in your garden beds, layer manure or other fresh organic matter on top, water thoroughly and cover with clear, heavy plastic. Black plastic is not as effective because it doesn't allow as much sun through and the soil doesn't heat up as much.) Let it "cook" for 6-8 weeks. Soil temperatures heat up to 140 degrees F or more. This heat kills weed seeds, nematodes and disease organisms. Earthworms head south into the soil, so they won't be killed.

Provide Water for Wildlife

If you provide bird baths or other standing water sources for birds and other creatures in your landscape, make sure to clean and disinfect them regularly. Use a ten percent bleach solution (9 parts water, 1 part bleach) to scrub the receptacles and then let them dry in the sun before adding fresh water. If you are going on vacation, pay a neighbor to keep the water going. 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 stop it.

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