Southwestern Deserts

April, 2009
Regional Report

Stop and Smell the Roses!

Did you know that 40 percent of rose shrubs grown for resale in the U.S. used to be grown in the Phoenix area? Development has taken over some of those grower sites, but you can find displays elsewhere at demonstration gardens, rose society shows, and garden tours. Roses are approaching their peak spring bloom time in the low desert, followed slightly later at higher elevations.

Plant Warm-Season Vegetables

Dig a four- to six-inch layer of organic matter into garden beds. Incorporate a fertilizer containing nitrogen and phosphorus. Sow seeds for cantaloupe, okra, cucumber, jicama, black-eyed peas, and summer squash. Keep soil moist until seeds germinate. Layer two to three inches of mulch after seedlings are up to maintain soil moisture and reduce soil temperature.

Collect Seed

Allow flower heads to dry and go to seed on cool-season annuals. Let the seeds scatter where they may, or collect and save them to sow next fall. Hold a paper bag beneath the dried seedhead and tap seeds into the bag. Or tie small paper bags around drying flower heads to catch seeds. Punch a few holes in the bag to provide air circulation. Separate chaff and make sure seeds are dry before storing in a cool, dark place.

Control Prickly Pear Size

If you have a large prickly pear cactus that is shooting off in directions you do not want it to go, remove the new pads now when they are small and easy to manage. Cut them at the joint with a sharp knife or pruning shears. After letting the cut cure for a day or two, the pads can be replanted. Or you can eat them! These tender young pads are called nopales and have been served as a vegetable in traditional Mexican and Native American cuisines. Remove the spines before cooking.

Check Irrigation Systems

Troubleshoot your watering system before it gets too hot! Increase the frequency on automatic timers as temperatures warm. The length of time the water runs should remain the same. Take the end cap off of irrigation tubing and flush the system to prevent dirt and salt build-up. Check all drip emitters and sprinkler heads to make sure they are not clogged. Ensure that lawn sprinklers cover the entire lawn with head-to-head coverage and that there are not dry patches or areas that get waterlogged.

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