Southwestern Deserts

November, 2006
Regional Report

Rev Up Compost

Compost piles often spend the hot summer being ignored, so decomposition slows down as moisture and oxygen is depleted. Turn piles with a pitchfork and sprinkle with water as you work. If you wait to water the pile from the top after you've finished, water quickly finds a channel to the ground and most of the material remains dry.

Force Paper Whites for Indoor Display

Choose big bulbs, which are more likely to send up multiple shoots. Fill container an inch or two from the rim with small rocks, aquarium pebbles, marbles, polished sea glass, or similar materials. Snug bulbs into the rock and fill in around them with more rock up to their "shoulders" or where the bulb starts to narrow at the top. This provides support to hold them steady when the shoots and flowers grow.

Continue Transplanting Perennial Flowers

Try low-water-use, desert-adapted flowers, such as Angelita daisy, chaparral sage, chocolate flower, guara, Mt. Lemmon marigold, and penstemon. They can be planted directly into native soil that has been loosened and has good drainage.

Fertilize Roses

Feed every six weeks until December. Water the soil around the base of the plant, don't sprinkle from above. Monitor for powdery mildew, a fungus that appears as a dusting of white-gray powder on foliage. Clean up and dispose of leaf litter around the bushes to inhibit mildew from overwintering.

Monitor Water Use

It's time to reprogram irrigation timers as temperatures cool and plants use less water. Cacti are dormant in winter, and their roots will rot sitting in cold, wet soil. They may not need any irrigation if we enjoy winter rains. Otherwise, once per month is usually sufficient. Aloes start growing now so they can take regular water, but don't overwater because as they don't like wet feet, either.

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