Southwestern Deserts

July, 2008
Regional Report

Check Your Sun Exposure

If you have moved to a new home or are new to gardening and landscaping, it's essential to know the sun exposures in your yard. Walk around and make note of sun exposures on a sketch. It doesn't have to be fancy, but as you plan changes in the landscape, it will help you match plants with their sun requirements. In particular, note the best locations to site a tree to block intense southern or western sun. Well-sited trees can help you save a bundle on utility bills.

Replenish Mulch

Add organic mulch as needed so that plants have 2 to 4 inches of protection. Mulch reduces moisture loss, reduces soil temperatures, inhibits weed seeds from germinating, and adds nutrients to the soil as it decomposes. It also helps soil maintain a more friable texture because the top layer doesn't have a chance to dry and crack.

Sow Sunflowers

It's not too late to grow these pretty sun worshipers. They germinate and grow quickly in the monsoon season. Sow hybrids in improved soil with a thick layer of mulch. Native varieties such as 'Apache Brown Striped' or Hopi Black Dye' aren't as fussy about soil and water.

Control Weeds

Monsoon rains are followed by a quick crop of weeds. Pull or hoe them ASAP, long before they flower and set seed. They are easy to remove when soil is moist and you can leave the green foliage to decompose on top of the soil. Alternatively, toss them in the compost pile.

Eliminate Breeding Areas for Skeeters

Monsoon rains can dump a deluge in minutes, creating mini ponds in shallow depressions in the soil or filling saucers beneath plants. Mosquitoes can breed in the tiniest bit of standing water. Make sure that any natural pools of water on the ground drain quickly (within 24 hours), and lift and empty saucers, containers, or other receptacles.

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