Southwestern Deserts

December, 2007
Regional Report

Keep Christmas Trees Moist

Whether cut or container-grown, be sure trees are kept moist to maintain fresh pliable needles through the holidays. An easy way to water a container tree? Place ice cubes on top of the soil and they'll slowly melt.

Start Tomatoes and Peppers

Sow seeds indoors for transplanting out in six to eight weeks. In the low desert, plants should be in the ground no later than mid-March. Choose varieties with short growing seasons and smaller-sized fruit, which has a better chance of ripening and reaching maturity than the big beefsteaks.

Harvest Citrus

Taste-test navel and sweet oranges, mandarins, and tangelos, which are ripening up now. Rind color is not a reliable indicator. Let your taste buds decide! The longer fruit stays on the tree, the sweeter it becomes.

Monitor Forecasts

Be prepared to protect frost-tender plants, such as citrus, lantana, bougainvillea, natal plum, hibiscus, and annual vegetables and flowers. Cover at sundown, trapping heat radiating up from the soil. If you use burlap or old sheets, remove the following morning before the sun heats up and cooks plants beneath. Check the manufacturer's instructions to determine how long it is safe to leave frost cloth in place.

Mow Smart

Don't mow ryegrass lawns when the grass or soil is wet. Pushing the mower back and forth compacts the soil, making the passage of water and oxygen to the root systems difficult. Also, fungal diseases are more easily spread when grass is wet.

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