Southwestern Deserts

August, 2005
Regional Report

Collect Rainwater

Summer monsoons have finally arrived, although somewhat sporadically. Use rain gutters to direct water from your roof into collection barrels. Or direct the water to flow to a specific area in the landscape to water plants, such as around trees. If you store rainwater, make sure the container is airtight to prevent mosquitoes from breeding, or place Mosquito Dunks in the water to control them.

Prevent Spider Mites

Along with the blowing winds and dust from summer monsoon storms come the spider mites. These miniscule eight-legged creatures thrive on dusty plants, being especially fond of roses. They are usually noticed by the webbing they leave behind on foliage. Hose off dusty plant foliage regularly to prevent mite populations from gaining the upper hand.

Prune Storm-Damaged Limbs

Strong monsoon winds snap limbs off trees. Carefully prune the damaged branches at a joint where the branch meets the trunk, or where a smaller branch meets a larger branch. This is where the plant's tissue can quickly heal and seal the cut, preventing insects and diseases from entering. Never apply a sealant as this inhibits the plant's own defense system.

Transplant Palm Trees

Palm trees are one of the very few things that thrive when planted in the midst of summer in the low desert. Dig a hole that is as deep as the root ball and twice as wide. Don't amend the backfill with organic material. Soil should be kept consistently moist for six to eight weeks until roots establish. Use a soil probe to ensure that water is soaking deeply through the entire root system.

Watch for Night-Blooming Cactus

Night bloomers, such as Cereus hildmannianus, are showing off their large white or pinkish blooms. The impressive funnel-shaped flowers can grow 5 inches wide and 7 inches long. Peek inside to find insects going about their business.

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