Southwestern Deserts

July, 2011
Regional Report

Wash Dusty Plants

Clogged pores will negatively impact evapotranspiration and photosynthesis. Also, spider mites thrive in dusty conditions. Spray off plants with a blast of water from the hose in the early morning before the sun heats up.

Water Pecan Trees

Pecan trees require considerable water so they may not be the best choice if you want a truly low-water-use landscape. However, they may be considered part of an edible landscape, producing sweet nutritious nuts. If you already have pecan trees, monitor their water needs carefully to obtain a good crop. Consider directing rainwater harvests off your roof or hardscape to give trees a good deep soaking. The nuts grow in size in summer until the outer shell hardens and then the interior fills. Drought stress will negatively affect the size and fill of the pecans. Let a hose trickle slowly all around the tree's dripline, soaking to a depth of 3 feet.

Plan for Toads

Monsoon thunderstorms, assuming we actually get rain this summer, are prime mating season for native toad-like amphibians, such as Couch's spadefoot. These intriguing creatures are found in parts of California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. You may be able to encourage them to set up housekeeping in your landscape if you have a natural water feature. Place a few overturned clay pots (with access) to serve as dark shady refuges during the day. Spadefoot and other amphibians are great insect eaters.

Mow Properly

How high to allow grass to grow before mowing depends on the type of grass (such as Bermuda, buffalo, zoysia), as well as the specific variety, such as Midiron or Tifgreen. To maintain a healthy lawn, mow regularly to keep grass at the appropriate height, rather than scalping the lawn so that you do not have to mow as often! Scalped lawns are susceptible to problems such as weak growth and weed infestations. If your grass was recently installed, check with the supplier for recommended mowing heights. If you don't know the grass variety, some basic guidelines are one half inch to 1 1/2 inches for hybrid Bermuda, 2 to 3 inches for buffalo and St. Augustine, and three-quarters to 2 inches for zoysia.

Squash the Squash Bugs

Examine cucumbers, gourds, pumpkins, melons, and squash for squash bugs, which suck the sap from leaves and stems, and destroy the plants. Regular patrols will keep them at bay without chemicals. Look on the undersides of leaves for masses of eggs laid in straight rows. Crush any eggs found. Adult squash bugs are a half inch long, brownish gray, and shaped like a shield. Pull mulch away from the bases of plants to eliminate their hiding spots. You can also soak the area with water, which will cause them to vacate so you can squash them in flight. Set boards or something similar around plants as traps. Then first thing in the morning, squash the bugs hiding beneath.

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