Southwestern Deserts

July, 2010
Regional Report

Sow Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkins are sown this month to be ready in time for Halloween. They require consistent soil moisture and are susceptible to whiteflies, which congregate in huge numbers on the undersides of the leaves. Those giant pumpkins the size of Cinderella's carriage aren't well-suited in arid climates. Stick to the smaller sizes, especially the minis!


Hand-Pollinate Vegetables

If squash, cucumbers, melons or other vining plants do not set fruit, try hand-pollinating. Unfortunately, bee populations are in decline because of a mite as well as fears about Africanized bees. Bee swarms are being removed rather than tolerated so the number of pollinators is in rapid decline. Use a small paintbrush or cotton swab to rub pollen from male flowers to female flowers. Female flowers have a small swollen area at the base. This is the future fruit.

Provide Water for Wildlife

If you provide bird baths or other standing water sources for birds and other creatures in your landscape, make sure to clean and disinfect them regularly. Use a ten percent bleach solution (9 parts water, 1 part bleach) to scrub the receptacles and then let them dry in the sun before adding fresh water. If you are going on vacation, pay a neighbor child to keep the water going. It's essential to keep the sources clean to prevent the spread of disease, and if animals are conditioned to drink in your yard, it's cruel to stop it.

Learn to ID Beneficial Insects

Learn to identify all the life stages of beneficial insects so you don't mistakenly destroy them. For example, the ladybeetle adult lays eggs in orange clusters. They hatch as orange and dark bluish black or bluish gray larvae with a tapered shape that is often described as a mini-alligator. The pupae are black and orange with a round shape. 

Another important factor influencing natural pest control is change in weather conditions. Many insects are temperature-dependent. Whiteflies reproduce rapidly during warm weather but die off when cold temperatures arrive; aphids prefer cooler temperatures and disappear when it heats up. Sometimes just waiting for the weather to change is all that's needed.

Monitor Water Needs of Cacti

Look for signs of wrinkling or shriveling, which indicates the cactus is stressed for water. Give established cacti a deep soaking (1 foot deep) once per month in summer. If summer rains are heavy, it may not be necessary because cacti are sensitive to root rot if soils are wet.

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