Southwestern Deserts

June, 2001
Regional Report

Dethatch Bermuda Lawns

Thatch is a layer of dead grass beneath growing grass. If this layer builds up to 1/2-inch thick or more, it interferes with sun and water penetration and should be removed. Dethatching Bermuda grass is performed only when the grass is actively growing (summer). You can rent a dethatching machine or hire a landscape maintenance firm to do it for you.

Control Scale on Cacti

Watch for a sticky, fluffy substance on opuntia cacti such as prickly pear and cane cholla. This unsightly mess is cochinea scale insect. The best control method is to wash off the scale with a strong spray of water from the hose as often as needed. The white matter is a protective coating around the tiny cochineal scale. The scarlet red insect is still collected by people to be used as a natural dye. If your plant is loaded with this scale, the water may run red when you kill it.

Solarize Soil

If you\'ve had fungal diseases or nematodes in the garden, summer is a good time to solarize the soil. 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 140oF, enough to kill diseases and nematodes, but not harm earthworms.

Plant Vegetables


Sow seeds for okra, sweet corn, black-eyed peas, pumpkins, and cantaloupe. 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.

Keep Containers Cool


If air temperatures are in the 100oFs, soil temperature in containers can be as high as 150oF in direct sun. Place containers out of hot afternoon sun. Wrap a piece of cardboard around the outside of the pot or set the container inside a larger pot to act as a temperature buffer. Water slowly so the entire root zone is soaked.

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