Southwestern Deserts

July, 2010
Regional Report

Transplant Palm Trees

Root systems of palm trees thrive when transplanted in summer heat. Dig a hole that's as deep as the rootball and twice as wide. Don't amend the backfill with organic material. Keep soil consistently moist for six to eight weeks until roots establish.

Water Lawns Deeply and Infrequently as Possible

Bermuda should be watered to a depth of 8 to 10 inches. This creates a healthy root system that can withstand breaks between irrigation. Stick a long screwdriver into the soil after watering. It will penetrate easily through moist soil but stop at hard, dry soil. This will help you gauge if your sprinklers are running long enough to soak the lawn's root system. Don't waste water. If water runs off into the street before it soaks deeply enough, stop the system, allow water to penetrate, and then start it again. It may take several cycles. If this happens, it could be a sign that it's time to aerate the lawn to allow better water absorption.

Aerate Bermuda Lawns as Needed

Aeration is the process of punching small holes through the top layer of thatch and soil, removing "plugs" of soil. This allows oxygen, moisture, and nutrients to reach the grass roots. Aerate in summer when Bermuda is actively growing so it can recover quickly. Rent a powered aerator for large lawns, or use a foot-press aerator for small patches. Generally, aeration once every two or three years is sufficient.

Wash off Cochineal Scale

Prickly pear cacti are susceptible to cochineal scale, a teeny insect that exudes a white, cottony looking substance as protection. It spreads across the cacti pads, although usually at a slow rate. The best solution is to spray it off periodically with a forceful blast of water from the hose.

Repot Houseplants

If the plant has filled out the entire pot, roots are poking through the drainage holes, or it's been in the same soil for two years or more and doesn't seem to be putting forth much new growth, it's time to repot. Use a good quality potting soil that contains pumice or perlite, both of which improve drainage. I like pumice better because it absorbs water and releases it back into the soil. Perlite often washes away through the drainage hole. Combat that during repotting by cutting a square of window mesh screen to cover the drainage hole. Water can still drain out, but soil doesn't.

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