Southwestern Deserts

October, 2005
Regional Report

Plant Herbs

Plant cool-season herbs where they receive 6 to 8 hours of full daily. They like soil with excellent drainage that's amended with some organic matter, but soil doesn't have to be as rich as a vegetable garden typically is. Good culinary herb choices include chives, cilantro, dill, fennel, garlic, lavender, lemon balm, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, and thyme.

Prepare Bermuda Lawns for Winter

If you let warm-season Bermuda lawns go dormant for winter, you can save water, time, and money. Dormant lawns don't need fertilizer and only need watering once a month. If rains were as plentiful as last year, they may not even need that. If you overseed with cool-season ryegrass, wait until night temperatures stay below 65 degrees F and day temperatures are below 78 degrees. Water three times daily for 5 to 10 minutes to keep soil moist until seed germinates. Then reduce watering to once or twice a week.

Sow Wildflower Seeds

There's still time to sow wildflowers. Scatter seeds for California poppies, desert bluebells, desert marigolds, penstemons, lupines, owl's clover, toadflax, scarlet flax, and blanket flower. Keep moist until germination, then gradually reduce watering as the seedlings reach about 2 inches. Don't fertilize.

Continue Transplanting

Fall is the best planting time because it provides seven to eight months of moderate temperatures, allowing roots to develop before summer's intense heat. Most roots grow outward through the soil, so prepare a hole that encourages this growth. Loosen soil in an area that is five times as wide as the container. In the middle of this area, dig a hole as deep as the rootball or container and three times as wide. Soil and backfill do not need to be amended for landscape plants, nor do plants need fertilizer for the first year. Native plants seldom, if ever, require fertilizer.

Rejuvenate Compost Piles

Compost piles often sit through the hot summer without much attention, and the decomposition process slows down as moisture and oxygen are used up. Turn piles and sprinkle with water as you go. If you try to moisten the pile from the top, water quickly finds a channel to the ground and most of the material stays dry. Adding air and water will reactivate all those microorganisms that are doing the decomposing work for you.

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