Southwestern Deserts

May, 2003
Regional Report

Care for Tomato Plants

Tomato pollen isn’t viable much over 90 degrees F so fruit won’t set. Continue to water plants so existing tomatoes will mature and ripen. If you want to keep tomato plants alive through the summer to bloom and fruit again in the fall, provide shade cloth to protect them from the hot afternoon sun and cover the root area with 3-4 inches of organic mulch.

Treat Pearl Scale

If Bermuda lawns have areas that are either dead or yellowish-brown, it may be Pearl Scale. Dig up a chunk and examine the roots for these tiny white insects that resemble pearls. If found, remove all affected grass and dispose of it in the trash. Disinfect toolswith a 10 percent bleach solution so the scale doesn’t spread other areas. Unfortunately, there is no chemical control for this pest that works effectively with one application. An appropriate insecticide can be applied from May through July when the young insects are active. At other times of year, the scale adults have a protective coat so insecticide is of no use.

Protect Citrus

Paint citrus trunks with white latex paint that is designed for tree trunks. If you don’t like the appearance of the paint, loosely rap exposed areas with layers of cardboard. Remove it at the end of summer. Citrus bark is sensitive to sunburn and requires protection. If the tissue is severely burned, it allows easy entry for pests and diseases. It’s also a good idea to allow branches to hang down and protect the trunk, rather than pruning them up.

Plant Bermuda Lawns

Bermuda is a warm-season grass. It can be planted after soil temperatures warm in mid-May to mid-June, depending on elevation. Hybrid bermuda, which has no pollen and is therefore non allergenic, is being recommended as a way to reduce allergy problems. It is available as sod. Common or improved Bermuda does produce pollen. It is seeded. Whether seeding or sodding, first loosen the soil to a depth of 6-8 inches and incorporate 2-3 inches of organic matter.

Hand-Pollinate Vegetables

If squash, cucumbers, melons or other vining plants aren’t setting 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.

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