Southwestern Deserts

September, 2009
Regional Report

Encourage Christmas Cacti to Bloom

These photoperiodic plants have bloom cycles that are sensitive to the amount of light they receive. Place them in 12 to 14 hours of complete darkness -- for example, in a closet with a box over them --each night for 2 months. Water when the soil surface is dry. At the end of the period, bring them out and resume normal watering and feeding. They should set buds quickly for holiday bloom.

Plant a Tree With Fall Color

If you want a tree that provides fall color in your yard, start checking nurseries for Chinese pistache trees. Their leaves provide splendid autumn hues of scarlet, orange and gold. Because the color can vary, it pays to look at them when the leaves are changing to make sure you get what you want.

Handpick Tomato Hornworms

These are large, fat green caterpillars with a 1/4-inch "horn" protruding from their back end. They are often found on tomato plants, but they consume other foliage as well. Their coloration blends in so well with foliage that it is more likely you'll first see their dark, pellet-like droppings on the foliage beneath them or on the ground. Handpick caterpillars and destroy, or put them somewhere conspicuous for the birds to eat.

Propagate Cacti and Succulents

Propagate cacti with joints, such as prickly pears and chollas, by cutting with a clean, sharp knife at the joint. Separate aloe and agave "pups" from the parent, retaining as much root as possible. Allow the open cuts to callus for a week before transplanting into well-drained soil. Their roots will rot if kept too wet.

Plant Cool-Season Vegetables

Sow all types of greens, including lettuces, chard, mustard, kale and spinach. Sow root crops, including beets, carrots, turnips, onions and kohlrabi. Transplant or sow seeds for the cabbage family, including broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, cabbage and Brussels sprouts. Peas should also be sown now.

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