Southwestern Deserts

February, 2010
Regional Report

Caring for Succulents

With recent heavy winter rains in many areas, it usually isn't necessary to water cacti and other succulents. Too much water, and their root systems will rot. In addition, excessive water stored in their tissues can freeze and destroy plant cells.

Don't Prune Frost Damage

Although blackened foliage looks ugly, it actually serves a purpose. It will protect still-healthy foliage from future frosts. Also, what looks dead may revive in spring, so you don't want to cut off more plant material than necessary. Wait to prune until all danger of frost is past, usually mid-March in the low desert.

Start Basil Seeds

Sow basil indoors for transplanting outside when temperatures warm. Use a sterile potting soil to prevent damping off disease, which causes seedlings to tip over and die very quickly. Keep soil moist, but not wet. If using natural light, turn pots one-quarter turn daily to prevent seedlings from leaning towards the light.

Transplant Annual Color

Cool-season splashes of color available for transplant right now include calendulas, pansies, poppies, primroses, and stocks. Transplant into improved garden soil or put in a container in a spot that gets six to eight hours of sun daily.

Harvest Citrus

Trees are loaded with fruit. Taste-test for maximum sweetness as the longer fruit stays on the tree, the sweeter it becomes. Please don't let fruit go to waste. If your trees are producing a banner crop and you can't use it all, share it with those less fortunate. Organize a Harvest Party with friends and neighbors, and donate the proceeds to a local food bank.

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