Southwestern Deserts

January, 2009
Regional Report

Organize and Clean Containers

A good time to transplant houseplants is at the end of winter, just before new growth begins. Check your houseplants to see if they will need to be transplanted to a larger-sized pot. Tell-tale signs: roots growing out of the drainage holes, entire soil surface is covered by dense roots, anemic-looking growth, or white salt build-up on the soil surface or along the pot's edges. Start organizing your container collection. Scrub previously used containers with a 10 percent bleach solution and air-dry them in the sun. Peruse nurseries for container replacements so you'll be ready to replant in a month or so.

Transplant Wildflower Seedlings

Seedlings are starting to fill out and empty spots are noticeable. A general guideline is spacing each plant 8 to 12 inches apart. Transplant a day or two after rain or irrigation when the soil is moist and easy to dig. Dig the transplant hole first, to limit the time roots are exposed to the air. Dig deep enough to ensure you get the entire, often delicate, root system.

Prepare Soil

Layer 4 to 6 inches of compost or aged manure on top of the soil. Desert soils typically have plenty of potassium, so only nitrogen and phosphorus need to be added. Ammonium phosphate (16-20-0) is a standard choice. If you want an organic garden, choose organic fertilizers, such as blood meal, fish emulsion, and seabird guano for nitrogen; and bone meal or rock phosphate for phosphorus. Either soil sulfur or gypsum can be added to improve drainage. Follow package instructions for any fertilizer or amendment. Turn it all under, incorporating the compost, fertilizer, and amendments into the soil. Rake it smooth. Don't walk on the soil unless necessary to prevent compaction.

Follow the Sun

Check out the sun exposure in different sites in your landscape throughout the year. Make a note of it in your gardening journal. You will observe how the exposure will change with the seasons because the sun is directly overhead in summer and at a lower angle in winter. This knowledge will help you choose the most appropriate plants for each spot, as even some desert-adapted plants prefer some shade or filtered light!

Plant Bare-root Roses and Fruit Trees

Low-desert gardeners should finish up bare-root planting this month. Gardeners at mid-level desert elevations can begin bare-root planting, including roses, fruit trees, and brambles.

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