Southwestern Deserts

January, 2001
Regional Report

Plant Cool-Season Vegetables


There's still plenty of time to sow cool-season crops such as carrots, beets, radishes, turnips, onions, lettuce, and greens of all types and to transplant globe artichokes and asparagus. It's also time to prepare beds for warm-season planting, which starts about mid-February to mid-March. Add a 4-inch layer of compost to improve soil fertility, nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers such as blood meal and bone meal, and 3 pounds of sulfur per 100 square feet.

Watch for Aphids


Aphids are tiny, soft-bodied insects that suck the sap out of tender plant growth. They come in a range of colors but are most commonly green or grayish black. The easiest way to get rid of aphids is to monitor plants daily and as soon as they're spotted, hose them off with a strong blast of water. Do this daily, or as needed.

Transplant Colorful Annuals


Continue transplanting cool-season flowers such as stock, snapdragon, pansy, petunia, dusty miller, calendula, nasturtium, poppy, and geranium. Deadhead spent blossoms to prolong blooming. Fertilize with a phosphorus fertilizer such as bone meal. Yellowing leaves may signal a nitrogen deficiency, as annuals are heavy feeders and desert soils are low in nitrogen. Water well before and after fertilizing to prevent burning the roots.

Harvest Citrus


Many varieties of citrus are ready for harvest. However, the longer fruit stays on the tree, the sweeter it becomes. This is especially true of grapefruit. Taste-test your fruit to see when it's ready. Clip fruit with pruners rather than pulling it, which can tear plant tissue. If you can't use it all, organize a family or neighborhood harvest and donate the fruit to a food bank.

Spring Bulb Care


Bulbs are poking through the soil by now. Many desert soils have a high clay content, which retains moisture longer. Keep soil consistently moist but don't overwater or bulbs can rot. Let the topsoil layer - 1 to 2 inches - dry out before watering. A layer of mulch will help retain consistent soil moisture and temperature. If foliage is yellowing, apply a nitrogen fertilizer such as blood meal or fish emulsion.

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