Southwestern Deserts

December, 2008
Regional Report

Turn Compost Piles

Burn off holiday stress by turning piles with a pitchfork. Sprinkle with water as you work. If you wait to water the pile from the top after you've finished, water quickly finds a channel to the ground and most of the material remains dry.

Continue Transplanting Perennial Flowers

Great low water-use, desert-adapted flowers include Angelita daisy, chaparral sage, chocolate flower, guara, Mt. Lemmon marigold, and penstemon. They can be planted directly into native soil that has been loosened and has good drainage.

Monitor Water Use

Continue adjusting irrigation timers as temperatures cool and plant water use drops. Cactus are dormant in winter, and their roots will rot sitting in cold, wet soil. They may not need any irrigation if we enjoy winter rains. Otherwise, once per month is usually sufficient. Aloes start growing now, so they can take regular water, but don't overwater, as they don't like wet feet, either.

Continue Planting Vegetables

Seed germination slows as the soil cools, so you may prefer to jumpstart the process with transplants. Cool-season veggies include salad greens, root crops, and members of the cabbage family, such as bok choy, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, and cauliflower. Plant in improved soil in a bed that receives 6 to 8 hours of full sun daily. Keep soil consistently moist until seeds germinate.

Buy Live Christmas Trees

If needles are dry and brittle on a container-grown Christmas tree, the tree hasn't been watered properly and is likely stressed or perhaps rootbound. Avoid it and purchase another. Plunge the entire container into a larger pail of water. Let it soak and saturate the rootball before bringing indoors to a sunny location away from fireplaces and heating elements. Keep soil moist. Layering ice cubes on top of the soil to melt and soak in is an easy way to water.

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