Southwestern Deserts

March, 2007
Regional Report

Improve Garden Soil

Layer 4 to 6 inches of organic matter (compost or well-aged manure) on top of the soil. Spread fertilizer containing nitrogen and phosphorus according to package instructions. In clay soil with poor drainage, add gypsum according to package instructions. Turn it all under to a depth of 12 to 18 inches. (Root systems for most annuals need at least one foot to grow. If soil is too hard and rocky to obtain sufficient depth, it's better to build raised beds.) Rake smooth and water. Allow weeds to sprout and pull them before planting.

Finish Planting Bare-Root Roses and Fruit Trees

Low desert gardeners should finish up transplanting bare-root roses and fruit trees, which allows sufficient time to establish roots before heat hits in May. If you live at higher elevations, you have extra time to add them to your landscape.

Monitor Plants' Water Use

As temperatures fluctuate from cold to sometimes very warm this month, it's important to monitor soil moisture. Cold, wet soil invites root root, particularly with cacti and other succulents. Containers can quickly dry out if warm, sunny days occur back-to-back. Get outside and stick your finger in the soil!

Sow A Late Salad Crop

There's still time to sow seeds for cool-season veggies such as beets, carrots, onions, radishes, baby leaf lettuces, and spinach. Keep soil consistently moist until seeds germinate and seedlings establish. Birds love the tender seedlings, so it may be necessary to cover the bed until plants reach several inches in height.

Harvest Citrus

Assuming your citrus didn't freeze, the following varieties should be sweet. The longer fruit stays on the tree, the sweeter it becomes, so taste-test before harvesting: Lane Late navels, Diller and Trovita sweet oranges, all Valencias, Minneola tangelos, grapefruit, lemon, lime, kumquat and limequat.

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