Southwestern Deserts

March, 2006
Regional Report

Transplant Tomatoes and Peppers

The last frost date in the low desert is around mid-March, but it varies with elevation. Most low-desert gardeners are probably safe to plant tomatoes and peppers now. Check weather forecasts for late frosts and be prepared to protect plants if needed.

Check Irrigation Equipment

Turn on the system manually and examine all emitters and bubblers to make sure they aren't clogged. As plants grow, emitters should be moved outwards to keep pace with the expanding canopy or dripline. This is where feeder roots are actively absorbing water. If the spaghetti tubing is long enough, you may be able to just pull the unit away from the trunk and place the emitter farther out. However, many installers don't prepare for this necessity. If tubing is too short, attach another section using connectors.

Continue Transplanting Landscape Plants

There's still time to install desert-adapted trees, shrubs, vines, ground covers, perennials, cacti, and succulents. Loosen soil in an area that is 3 to 5 times as wide as the container and only as deep as the container. This large area of loosened soil helps roots spread outwards, providing a strong anchor and a large area from which to absorb nutrients and moisture.

Plant Citrus

April is a good time to plant frost-tender citrus. Cold temperatures are over, but the challenging heat of summer hasn't arrived. Plant small trees, which are easier to plant and catch up to bigger trees quickly. Don't add fertilizer until the tree has been in the ground for at least one year.

Protect Young Plants

Bunnies are hungry because there has been so little rain this winter, resulting in scant vegetation in the wild. Protect the trunks of trees and young plants, flowers, and vegetable gardens with chicken wire. Even sharply thorned cacti are fair game if the critters are hungry enough. Rabbits tend to leave more established plants alone, or at least aren't able to do as much damage, but that isn't a guarantee!

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