Southwestern Deserts

June, 2009
Regional Report

Plant Vegetables

In the low desert, sow seeds for okra, sweet corn, black-eyed peas, pumpkins, and cantaloupe. At high desert elevations, sow beans, black-eyed peas, corn, cukes, eggplant, melon, okra, pumpkin, and squash. Set out tomato transplants early in the month. Keep soil consistently moist until seeds germinate. After germination, layer several inches of mulch around plants to help retain soil moisture and reduce soil temperatures.

Collect Seeds

Collect seeds from cool-season annuals and spring-blooming wildflowers to sow elsewhere in the garden next year. Hold a paper bag beneath dried seed heads and tap the seeds into the bag. Or cut the entire blossom and put it in the bag to continue drying. Seeds will pop off when ready. Clean out chaff and store the seeds in a cool, dry place. Alternatively, let the flower heads dry and self sow in place. Volunteer plants will appear when conditions are optimum.

Keep Watering Citrus

If your fruit rinds crackd and split last year, it's a signal that trees weren't receiving sufficient water. Water should soak 3 feet deep and be applied at the outer edges of the tree's canopy and slightly beyond. This is where feeder roots are actively taking up water and nutrients. Mature citrus (3 year or older) need watering every 10 to 14 days. Young citrus (1 to 2 years old) need more frequent watering, about every 7 to 10 days. Newly planted citrus need water every 5 to 7 days.

Clean Up Spent Plants and Stockpile Leaves

Cool-season annuals are likely crispy by now if you have been slow to clean them up. Yank spent plants and put them in the compost pile. Scatter any seeds or save them for next fall. Some trees, such as acacia, are dropping old leaves as new growth pushes out. Where possible, leave them in place to act as mulch and add nutrients to the soil as they decompose. However, if homeowner associations require spotlessly clean earth, rake leaves and put them in the compost pile, or spread them as mulch beneath shrubs and on top of containers.

Solarize Soil

If your garden has had fungal diseases or nematodes, June is a good month to solarize the soil: temperatures are hot, and monsoon storms are still a month away. Heating the soil will kill many fungi, nematodes, and weed seeds. Layer manure or other fresh organic matter on the soil, water, cover with clear heavy plastic (to allow the sun through), and let it "cook" for 6 to 8 weeks. Soil temperatures will reach about 140 degrees F, enough to kill diseases and nematodes, but not harm earthworms.

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