Southwestern Deserts

December, 2006
Regional Report

Water Christmas Trees

Whether cut or in a container, make sure trees stay well hydrated, both for appearance and safety. Dry needles are a fire hazard! An easy method for watering container trees is to place ice cubes on top of the soil to slowly melt. Position cut trees out of direct sunlight if possible to extend their freshness. Container trees can be in direct sun. Keep trees away from heating vents and drafts.

Maintain Flowering Holiday Plants

Be sure soil moisture stays consistent. Remove decorative foil around the pots so water doesn't accumulate (or take it off to water, letting the plant drain in the sink and then rewrap). Place in a bright or sunny spot away from cold drafts at windows and doors, and away from heating vents. Fertilize with a slow-release product, or with an all-purpose fertilizer for blooming plants at half-strength every two weeks.

Protect Tender Plants From Frost

Cold temperatures are coming. Be prepared to cover frost-tender annual flowers and vegetables, citrus, bougainvillea, hibiscus, and natal plum. Cover plants as the sun sets, allowing the drape to reach all the way to the ground. Radiating heat will rise around the plant and stay trapped beneath the cover. If you wait until dark to cover, much of the heat will have already escaped.

Thin Seedlings

Crowded seedlings compete for water, nutrients, sunlight, and even air circulation. They tend to be spindly, reaching for the light. Thin according to the recommended spacing on seed packets. Thinned veggies, such as salad greens and baby carrots, are delicious! Thin wildflowers to eventually allow 8 to 12 inches between plants.

Buy Tomato Seeds

Transplants need to go into the garden from mid-February to mid-March, so be prepared to sow seeds indoors six to eight weeks before that. Order seeds or peruse the seed racks before they're all gone. Small to medium fruits that mature quickly perform better in the low desert than big beefsteaks, which tend to crack or not develop full flavor.

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