Southwestern Deserts

January, 2011
Regional Report

Add Wildlife Plants

Spring planting season is around the corner. Start drawing up a list of plants to add to your landscape that offer seeds, fruits, or nectar at different times of the year. Choose plants that will fill in gaps when there's nothing else happening in your yard. If space is limited, add easy-to-grow plants that have extended bloom seasons, such as Baja red fairy duster, desert willow, and Mexican bird of paradise.

Maintain Rosemary Topiaries

Mini rosemary topiaries are often given as gifts or used as decor during the holidays. If left indoors, place in full sun and be careful not to over water because they are susceptible to root rot. Fertilize monthly and trim lightly to maintain the shape. It's easy to keep rosemary thriving outdoors in pots or in the ground. However, it can be somewhat difficult to maintain the topiary shape outdoors in a pot over summer because rosemary likes full sun, but soil in containers heats up considerably, basically cooking the roots. If you want to maintain the topiary, transplant into a larger pot in spring. Place it where it receives morning sun and protection from hot afternoon summer sun. Alternatively, transplant outdoors in the garden after the last frost.

Sow Tomato Seeds

A common mistake made by new residents to the low desert is to transplant tomatoes in late May or June, as they did in other regions of the country. Because tomato pollen isn't viable over 90 degrees F, waiting that long to transplant means you won't get any fruit set. Sow seeds indoors now so you'll be ready to set out transplants from mid-February to mid-March. Sow seeds in soilless sterile potting mix to inhibit damping off disease, a fairly common killer of seedlings. If reusing containers, sterilize with a solution of 9 parts water and 1 part bleach.

Sharpen Pruners

Dull pruners can injure you and your plants! Sharpen blades before starting pruning chores in late winter. National Gardening Association provides complete do-it-yourself sharpening details in an article entitled Maintaining Your Edge at http://www.garden.org/articles/articles.php?q=show&id=816.

Sow Colorful Carrots

Children seem to love yanking root crops out of the ground, so it might help encourage them to eat their veggies if you plant a rainbow of carrot colors. In addition to orange, look for white, red, purple, and yellow carrot varieties, as well as round baby carrots, about the size of a golf ball.

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