Southwestern Deserts

October, 2008
Regional Report

Initiate Reblooming of Holiday Plants

If you saved Christmas cacti and poinsettias from last year, it's time to prepare them for repeat bloom. They need a period of darkness to set flower buds. Put them in total darkness for 12 to 14 hours daily for two months. Place a cardboard box over them in a closet and take them out during the day. Water when the top of the soil is dry. Use a phosphorous fertilizer to promote flowering.

Sow Wildflower Seeds

Choose seeds native to your area. Mix seeds with sand to promote uniform sowing. Select a sunny location, one with at least 8 hours of full sun daily. Very lightly rake the area. (Too much raking disturbs weed seeds, encouraging them to germinate.) Do not cover wildflower seeds any deeper than 1/16 of an inch. Keep soil moist for about four to six weeks until seeds germinate and reach about 2 inches in height. Soak the area every few weeks, if needed. If winter rains are heavy, this will not be necessary.

Continue Adding Landscape Plants

Fall planting in the low desert is best because root systems have seven or eight months to establish roots before summer heat returns. Transplant trees, shrubs, vines, ground covers, perennials, cacti, and other succulents. Dig a planting hole as deep as the rootball and three to five times as wide. This wide area promotes good root spread into the surrounding soil. Do not amend the backfill or apply fertilizer. Soak the plant's entire root system and keep soil moist (not wet) for several weeks after transplanting. Gradually taper off watering as roots establish.

Plant Spring Bulbs

Bulbs prefer loose, well-drained soil. Dig the soil to a depth of 18 inches. Work in a 4- to 6-inch layer of compost. Add nitrogen and phosphorus, such as fish meal and bone meal, according to product instructions. Choices for the low desert that will repeat in following years include crinum, crocosmia, Dutch iris, freesia, lycoris, tritonia, watsonia, and zephyranthes.

Care for Turf

If you plan to overseed Bermudagrass lawns with winter ryegrass, stop fertilizing four to six weeks in advance. The goal is to reduce the Bermuda's vigor so it won't compete with the rye. If you do not overseed, Bermuda will still look green most of the winter, browning during the coldest weather, but starting to green up again as temperatures warm. Do not fertilize non-overseeded Bermuda from November through March. Water to a depth of 8 to 10 inches monthly.

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