Southwestern Deserts

July, 2009
Regional Report

Replenish Mulch

Add more mulch around the base of plants to help reduce soil temperatures, evaporation, and weed germination. Spread organic matter such as compost, grass clippings, or chipped matter. Mulch should reach just past the dripline (canopy edge) of the plant, no matter how large it is. This is where the feeder roots are actively growing. Leave bare ground around the stem/trunk to keep the plant tissue dry. As mulch decomposes it will slowly release nutrients to the soil.

Water Lawns Deeply

Bermuda lawns should be watered to a depth of 8 to 10 inches, but as infrequently as possible. Stick a long screwdriver into the soil after watering. It will penetrate easily through moist soil but stop at hard, dry soil. This will help you gauge if your sprinklers are running long enough to soak the lawn's root system. Don't waste water. If water runs off into the street before it soaks deeply enough, stop the system, allow water to penetrate, and then start it again. It may take several cycles. If this happens, it could be a sign that it's time to aerate the lawn to allow better water absorption.

Reduce Fire Hazard

Create defensible space around your home. This means managing the landscape to reduce the threat of fire and to allow firefighters an opportunity to save the structure if fire does approach. The actual size of the space varies depending on the slope of your land and the type of wild vegetation growing around you, but it's important to remove any potentially flammable materials, such as dried pine needles and grasses, dead plant material, and branches that touch roof tops.

Don't Fret Half-Moons on Foliage

You may see carefully cut semi-circles on the edges of rose leaves and other smooth foliage, such as bougainvillea. This is the handiwork of leafcutter bees who use the material to construct narrow, tubular nests. These bees do no harm to the plant. They do not ingest the foliage, so applying any sort of insecticide is worthless. Bees are excellent pollinators, so be happy they are visiting your area!

Protect Tomato Plants

If you want to hold tomato plants through the summer into fall, provide shade from the hot afternoon sun. Cover with shade cloth, which will also deter leafhopper insects. They don't like shady conditions so won't hang around. Mulch plants heavily to maintain soil moisture.

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