Southwestern Deserts

May, 2010
Regional Report

Water Tomatoes Carefully

Tomatoes are thirsty plants. Water slowly to a depth of about 12 inches to moisten the entire root system. It's important to maintain even soil moisture to help prevent blossom end rot. This condition looks like a bruised spot on the blossom end of the fruit, probably caused by uneven watering and/or a calcium deficiency. If blossom end rot has been a problem in previous years, apply gypsum, which may remedy a calcium problem. Layer 2-4 inches of mulch around the plants to maintain soil moisture and to help keep fruit off on the wet soil.

Plant Sun-loving Flowers

Sow seeds for sunflowers, zinnias, tithonia, Mexican hat and coreopsis in improved garden soil. Keep consistently moist until germination. Gradually reduce watering frequency. As plants mature, water should reach through the entire root system, about 12 inches deep. Cut flowers frequently for bouquets and they will reward you with a long bloom season.

Fertilize Citrus

Supply citrus with their second "feeding" of their year, applying one-third of the tree's total annual nitrogen requirement. As a general guideline, a mature citrus that has been in the ground for 6 years needs about 1.5 pounds of actual nitrogen per year. Apply about one-half pound at each feeding. Water well the day before and immediately after applying to help prevent burn. Newly transplanted citrus do not need fertilizer for the first year.

Plant Vines

Cover walls with vines to reduce glare and heat build-up. Vines on walls can reduce energy use in the home as well. Some vines will "cling" to wall surfaces, such as cat's claw vine (Macfadyena unguis-cati). This is a positive and a negative in that it doesn't require any support to grow on, but it can also damage stucco or other surfaces if you decide to pull it down. Most vines, such as Lady Banks' rose and trumpet vine, need very sturdy fencing, trellises or ramadas to grow on. Lilac vine (Hardenbergia violacea) and yellow jessamine still require a trellis, but they tend to be less aggressive, although I've recently seen some enormous lilac vines that were never cut back. Be aware that vines by nature like to spread!

Collect Seed

Allow flower heads to dry and go to seed on cool-season annuals. Let the seeds scatter where they may, or collect and save them to sow next fall. Hold a paper bag beneath the dried seedhead and tap seeds into the bag. Or tie small paper bags around drying flower heads to catch seeds. Punch a few holes in the bag to provide air circulation. Separate chaff and make sure seeds are dry before storing in a cool, dark place.

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