Southwestern Deserts

March, 2008
Regional Report

Transplant Tomatoes

Set out tomatoes by mid-month in the lowest elevations, slightly later as elevation increases. Your goal is to get them in the ground by your area's last frost date so that plants have time to establish root systems, leaf out, flower, and set fruit before the desert's hot summer arrives. Many new residents wait to plant until late May, which insures dead plants by June!

Trim Frost Damage

Mid-March is the last frost date in the low desert. It is safe to start trimming any dead, frost-damaged stems. You can also wait until new growth starts and then trim back to that point.

Transplant Artichokes

Fabulously spiked silver leaves with a prehistoric appearance, softball-sized lavender flowers with light fragrance, and ultimately delectable fruits -- what's not to like about artichokes? Space at least 3 to 4 feet apart to allow leaves room to spread.

Fertilize Roses

Feed every six weeks with a granular fertilizer until summer arrives. Scratch it into the soil around the shrubs and water deeply after application. Alternatively, use a slow-release fertilizer according to package instructions.

Prepare Vegetable and Flower Beds

Layer 4 to 6 inches of organic matter (compost or well-aged manure) on top of the bed. Incorporate 4 to 6 inches of compost into vegetable and flower gardens. Dig it in to a depth of 12 to 18 inches. Desert soils have very little organic matter so it is essential to add plenty before each planting season. Add a nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizer source at the same time. There is usually plenty of potassium in desert soils so it doesn't need to be added. If you have heavy clay soil, add soil sulfur or gypsum to help improve drainage.

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