Southwestern Deserts

August, 2010
Regional Report

Hose 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.

Enjoy Praying Mantids

These delightful predators may be out and about in the garden. They have long, slender bodies and sit with enlarged legs held upright to grab unsuspecting passersby. Their spherical egg casings look like hard brown styrofoam, about the size of a quarter to a half-dollar. They are often attached to plant stems or walls; don't inadvertently destroy these beneficial predators (although they eat as many good guys as bad).

Water Effectively

Continue to watch plants for signs of stress during the hot summer. Use a soil probe to determine how far water penetrates. It will move easily through moist soil but stop at dry, hard soil. For shallow-rooted plants, such as cacti, succulents, annuals, and perennials, water should soak 1 foot deep. For shrubs, it should soak 2 feet, and for trees, 3 feet. If water isn't soaking to this depth with each watering, add time to the irrigation cycle, add more emitters, or add emitters with a greater flow rate. Be careful not to overwater, which causes root rot. If you receive summer rains, you may be able to skip scheduled irrigations.

Aerate Bermuda Lawns

Aerate every 2-4 years only when Bermuda is actively growing during the warm summer months. Rent a powered aerator for large lawns or use a foot press aerator for small patches. The goal is to punch small holes through the top layer of thatch and soil. This allows oxygen, moisture and nutrients to reach the grass roots.

Pinch Herbs

Pinch back herbs such as basil and thyme to keep them producing tender foliage. As they go to flower, the foliage becomes less tasty and/or bitter.

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