Southwestern Deserts

April, 2003
Regional Report

Plant Herbs

Sow warm-season herbs directly into the garden, including basil, garlic chives, and epazote. Transplant bay, salad burnet, lemongrass, marjoram, oregano, mint, rosemary, sage, and thyme. Herbs need extremely well-drained soil, but it doesn't have to be as rich in organic matter as flower or vegetable beds. Nor do they need much in the way of fertilizer. Actually, they have better flavor and scent without growing in a rich environment. Herbs can take full sun.

Increase Watering

Temperatures are rising, and plants will require more frequent watering as we head into summer. Remember that they don't need more water applied each time, they just need more frequent applications. Water should soak 1 foot deep for annuals and small plants, 2 feet deep for shrubs, and 3 feet deep for trees. Adjust timers on automatic systems.

Reduce Overgrown Cacti

If you have prickly pear cacti that are becoming too large for their space, spring is a good time to control them. Cut off the young, tender pads (called nopales) now before they develop nasty spines
and glochids. Use a sharp, sterile knife to inhibit the spread of disease. Use sturdy kitchen tongs to grasp them. Nopales are edible should you wish to try a traditional dish!

Tolerate Thrips

When citrus flowers, you may notice that new leaves become twisted. This is caused by a barely visible insect called a citrus thrip. If you suspect thrips, shake some blossoms over a sheet of white paper. If you see what looks like slivers of wood, you have thrips. These insects scar the
developing fruit and cause leaves to curl, but this is only cosmetic. Do not spray insecticide, which will kill pollinators and reduce the amount of fruit that sets on your tree.

Care for Bulbs

Spring bulbs are glorious now. After bloom is finished, it's okay to cut the flower stalk. Allow the leaves to turn brown and die back on their own, as they are storing energy for the bulb so it can bloom again next year. Keep soil somewhat moist, but not overly wet or the bulbs may rot. Layer several inches of compost around the bulbs. It will help maintain soil moisture, and as it breaks down it will add nutrients to the soil.

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