Southwestern Deserts

May, 2011
Regional Report

Sow Warm Season Flowers

Sunflowers, Mexican sunflower (Tithonia), and portulaca are easy to start from seed. Keep soil consistently moist until seeds germinate. A light dusting of screened compost can help maintain soil moisture. Add more mulch as seedlings germinate and grow.

Protect Your Nose from Pollen

Many trees are filled with hanging catkins in spring, which are slender flowering structures, about 1 to 2 inches long, which produce copious amounts of pollen. Their hanging style enhances wind pollination, carrying the lightweight pollen grains up, up and away. If you have allergies, wear a mask while working in the garden. Early morning hours, before the wind kicks up, are usually the best time to be out in the garden.

Collect Flower Seeds

Cool-season annuals such as bachelor button and larkspur are drying and going to seed. Collect them after any dew has dried. Hold a paper bag or a large bowl beneath the flower stalk and tap the seeds into it.

Check Citrus Trunks

Citrus bark is extremely sensitive to sunburn. After burning, it may crack and split open, creating an easy target for pests and diseases. White paint has been the traditional protection, but if you don't like the look, loosely wrap exposed bark with burlap.

Relax and Enjoy your Tomatoes

Earlier this spring, Cooperative Extension in Phoenix received multiple questions from concerned gardeners that tomato plants were looking unusually distressed. Rest easy! According to Horticulture Assistant Agent Kelly Young, the tomato mystery will have to be chalked up to unusual weather conditions for the following reasons: There was a cold, windy day just before onset of symptoms; symptoms were seen on several varieties from all parts of town (which encompasses a large area); screening for 17 tomato viruses came back negative; testing by plant pathologists turned up no bacteria or fungi; and new growth is unaffected.

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