Southwestern Deserts

January, 2006
Regional Report

Recycle Christmas Trees

Instead of sending cut trees to the landfills, many cities recycle them into mulch (which smells heavenly of pine). The mulch is used at parks and other public areas or may even be given to residents. Check with your local parks or waste disposal department for tree drop-off locations in your area.

Sow Veggie Seeds Indoors

If you want a jump on the growing season so fruits can develop before summer's heat, sow tomato and pepper seeds indoors six to eight weeks before transplanting outside. In the low desert, the last frost date is around March 15, depending on elevation. Transplant in mid-February, and provide protection from cold temperatures.

Sharpen Pruning Tools

Prepare bypass hand pruners and loppers for the upcoming pruning season. Bypass pruners use a scissors-like action that makes a smooth cut that can heal quickly. Don't use anvil-style pruners, which crush plant tissue, making it more difficult for it to heal.

Plant Bare-Root Roses

Soak the bare-root rose in a bucket of water overnight before planting. This helps hydrate it. Roses require full sun to bloom, even in the desert. If available, choose a spot that has morning sun and protection from summer's intense hot afternoon sun. Dig a hole that's 18 to 30 inches wide and deep. Mix nitrogen and phosphorus into the bottom of the planting hole according to package instructions. Make a cone of soil in the bottom of the hole, set the rose on top, and drape the roots over the cone. This helps roots grow outwards into the soil, rather than become rootbound. The bud union (a slight raised area where the rose is grafted to the rootstock) should be 2 inches above the soil line. Amend the backfill with half compost or other organic matter. Water well.

Maintain Wildflower Plantings

Winter rains have been sparse to date. Water wildflower plantings if plants look stressed, with yellowing, wilting or stunted growth. Let the ground dry out before watering again. Remember, wildflowers are used to limited rainfall so don't overwater. Pull weeds immediately so they don't use valuable nutrients and water. If needed, thin plants to a spacing of 8 to 12 inches.

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