Southwestern Deserts

December, 2009
Regional Report

Caring for Poinsettia

Put the plant in a bright location away from direct sun and drafts. Remove any foil wrap on the pot so that water doesn't accumulate and rot the roots. Water after the top inch of soil is dry. Let water run through the drainage holes. Feed monthly with a blooming plant fertilizer that has a higher middle number, such as 5-10-5.

Plant Deciduous Fruit Trees

Plant bare-root apple, peach, apricot, and plum trees. Fruit tree varieties require different amounts of chilling hours to set fruit. A chilling hour is defined as one hour at 45 degrees or below. The low desert averages 300 to 400 chilling hours annually. Check with your County Cooperative Extension office to determine how many "chilling hours" your specific area averages. Choose trees whose requirements match your area.

Harvest Citrus

Navel and sweet oranges, mandarins, and tangelo are probably ready for harvest. Taste-test for sweetness because rind color is not a reliable indicator. The fruit may be sweet even though the rind is still green. When the temperature is cold enough, rinds start turning from green to yellow or green to orange, depending on the fruit.

Thin Seedlings

Crowded seedlings compete for water, nutrients, sunshine, and even air circulation, and just won't thrive. Thin excess vegetables and flowers to the recommended spacing on the seed packet. For wildflowers, an 8- to 10-inch spacing will create a thick planting of spring blooms. Snip seedlings off at the base with scissors. It's less disruptive to nearby root systems than trying to transplant the extras.

Plant Cool-Season Vegetables

Continue to sow or transplant winter vegetables. Sow seeds for root crops, such as carrots, radishes, turnips, kohlrabi, and beets. Sow seeds for lettuces and greens, such as mustard, collards, kale, and chard. Sow seeds or transplant members of the cabbage family, including broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts. Germination may be slower in cool soil.

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