Southwestern Deserts

September, 2006
Regional Report

Make a Plant List

Many botanical garden plant sales take place this month in the low desert. Go prepared with a plant list. Choose plants whose mature size -- both height and width -- won't overgrow the site in your landscape. Sun exposure should also match. Not all desert-adapted plants prefer full sun. Some do better with protection from afternoon sun.

Prepare Garden Beds

Layer 4 to 6 inches of compost or well-aged manure on top of beds. If drainage is poor, add gypsum or soil sulfur according to package instructions. Broadcast nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizer, such as ammonium phosphate (16-20-0); or organic sources, such as blood meal and rock phosphate. Dig it all under to a depth of 12 to 18 inches. If soil is too hard and rocky, build raised beds with the same depth.

Encourage Christmas Cacti to Bloom

These photoperiodic plants have bloom cycles that are sensitive to the amount of light they receive. Place them in 12 to 14 hours of complete darkness -- for example, in a closet with a box over them -- each night for two months. Water when the soil surface is dry. At the end of the period, bring them out and resume normal watering and feeding. They should set buds quickly for holiday bloom.

Add Leaves to the Compost Pile

Dried leaves are a good carbon source for compost. If you (or your neighbors) have an abundance, rake them up and stockpile them to use throughout the year, mixing them with nitrogen sources, such as grass clippings or kitchen scraps.

Feed Houseplants

Add a slow-release fertilizer according to package instructions. Alternatively, scrape a little compost or worm castings into the top layer of soil to provide a slow addition of nutrients.

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