Southwestern Deserts

August, 2011
Regional Report

Control Tomato Hornworms

Chubby green caterpillars about 1 to 2 inches in length chew foliage on tomatoes, peppers, cape honeysuckle, and other plants. Their coloration blends well with foliage, but they may often be found by their conspicuous dark, pellet-like frass (droppings) where they are feeding. Control by hand-picking.

Transplant Palms in the Low Desert

Palms are about the only landscape plants in the low desert that thrive when transplanted in the heat of summer. Dig a planting hole as deep as the root ball and two feet wider on all sides. Do not amend backfill. Keep the soil consistently moist for two weeks after planting, which will probably require daily watering. Gradually lengthen the time between watering to about seven days through the palm's first year in the ground.

Tranplant Landscape Plants at Mid and High Elevations

Trees, shrubs, vines, groundcovers, grasses, cacti, succulents, and perennials can all be transplanted during the monsoon season at mid and high desert elevations. Dig holes only as deep as the rootball and 3 to 5 times as wide. Rough up the sides of the hole to encourage root penetration through the soil. Set the plant in the hole and backfill with native, non-amended soil. Create a berm or water well at the outer canopy edge. Spread 3 to 4 inches of organic mulch over the planting area. (Neither water or mulch should settle against the stem or trunk.)

Deadhead and Harvest

Remove spent flowers on annuals and harvest tender young vegetables regularly to promote continued blooms and vegetable production.

Patrol for Scorpions (or not)

Scorpions may be stirring in the garden during warm summer nights. If you are curious, scorpions glow when a black light (ultraviolet) is shined on them at night. During the day, scorpions hide in rock piles, tree bark, palm fronds, and wood piles. Wear shoes and gloves in the garden, and be wary when reaching into good hiding spots. In Arizona, only the bark scorpion (Centruroides exilicauda) has a potentially lethal poison, although other species may deliver a painful sting if they feel threatened. These intriguing arachnids may be considered beneficial because they eat cockroaches and crickets. If there is a sudden influx of scorpions, it may be due to nearby palm trimming or construction that disturbed their habitat. A good control method is to eliminate possible hiding places.

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