Southwestern Deserts

November, 2006
Regional Report

Enjoy Autumn Color

Autumn leaves have been on display in the high country for some weeks, and the color change is heading towards the low desert. Take some time to enjoy the gorgeous weather and nature's display. Rake some leaves to add an excellent source of carbon to your compost bin. Be a good neighbor -- rake your neighbor's lawn and helpfully haul away the leaves to your backyard! Stockpile them for later use. (Plastic garbage bags work well to corral them until needed.)

Plant Bulbs

Bulbs need loose soil to thrive. Layer 4 to 6 inches of organic matter on top of the soil and then incorporate to a depth of 12 to 18 inches. Follow package instructions for planting depth, or, as a rule of thumb, plant a bulb two times as deep as its diameter. Phosphorus promotes blooming but it doesn't move readily through the soil. So mix phosphorus (such as bone meal, rock phosphate, or a chemical fertilizer with a high middle number) into the bottom of each planting hole.

Finish Overseeding Lawns

If you choose to overseed Bermuda with winter ryegrass, finish the project before mid-November so the seed germinates before the soil becomes too cold and damp. Annual and perennial ryegrass seed is available. (Although "perennial," it will still need to be sown in subsequent years.) Don't mix the two. Annual needs more maintenance than perennial and costs less, but more seed is needed to obtain the same coverage. Perennial is a darker green color and has a finer blade. For each 1,000 square feet of lawn, use 10 to 20 pounds of annual or 10 to 15 pounds of perennial seed. Water two times daily, for 5 to 10 minutes each, to maintain moist soil until seeds germinate and seedlings establish. When seedlings reach 1 inch, reduce watering to once daily.

Sow Wildflower Seeds

If you didn't do so in October, broadcast wildflower seeds to take advantage of winter rains. Choose natives such as desert bluebells, desert marigolds, lupines, penstemon, Arizona or Mexican poppies, and owl clover.

Thin Seedlings

As vegetable, flower, and herb seedlings pop through the soil surface, thin to the recommended spacing on seed packets. Crowded plants end up spindly and unhealthy as they compete for water, nutrients, and sunlight.

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