Southwestern Deserts

June, 2008
Regional Report

Fertilize Containers

The frequent watering required for container plants also leaches nutrients out of the soil quickly. Organic or slow-release fertilizers are good for pots, as they release their nutrients slowly over time, reducing the chance of root burn. Water thoroughly after application, allowing water to run out drainage holes. Empty any water that collects in saucers. It will be high in salts, which when reabsorbed, can burn roots.

Monitor Soil Moisture

Unusual weather patterns dumped some unexpectedly heavy, but welcome, rain on some lucky Southwestern gardens. Scratch down into the soil a few inches. If it's moist, it may be possible to skip a scheduled watering or two. Remember that overwatering is often more of a problem than underwatering for desert plants, which are susceptible to root rot.

Prune Heritage Roses

Prune once-blooming heritage roses (also called old garden roses) after spring flowering is complete. These roses bloom on year-old or older wood, so pruning now develops wood for next year's blooms. Sterilize pruners in between pruning separate shrubs to prevent the spread of disease. Seal all pruning cuts with wood glue to stop cane borers from entering. (Hybrid roses should not be pruned at this time.)

Enjoy the Birds

Native baby birds are fledging and spring-blooming plants have gone to seed, drawing birds to the landscape. Take time to sit quietly in the garden or observe bird activity from a window. In the space of a few hours at the computer today I watched a parental curve-billed thrasher stuffing seeds into the mouths of two chubby offspring, a young Abert's towhee fluttering from a wall to a window ledge to the ground and back again, several goldfinches scouring globe mallow and superstition mallow for seeds, and a gilded flicker who seemed to stop by just to look around.

Harvest Herbs

Use basil, oregano, and rosemary regularly to keep plants producing tender leaves. Snip stems back by one-third, or cut a few stems almost to the ground to rejuvenate.

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