Southwestern Deserts

April, 2012
Regional Report

Plant Purple Basil

Think basil, and green leaves may jump to mind, but also consider adding a pretty purple-leafed basil to your garden, such as 'Purple Petra' or 'Purple Ruffles'. 'Purple Bush' basil is suited for pots.

Fertilize Deciduous Fruit Trees

Apply after your last frost date, just as new leaf growth starts to emerge. Don't jump the gun because feeding stimulates tender growth that is susceptible to damage from late frosts. Follow package instructions exactly. Apply the product at the outer edge of the tree canopy. Applying fertilizer close to a mature trunk is wasted because the feeder roots have spread well beyond.

Maintain Wildflowers

As temperatures heat up, some wildflowers, such as lupine, penstemon, and poppies, are winding down their season in the low desert. A slow soaking of the soil may help prolong their bloom period before they go to seed.

Finish Transplanting Landscape Plants

Low desert gardeners should get plants in the ground as soon as possible. The goal is to get those roots over the shock of transplant before the heat of summer hits. Mid elevation gardeners have a little more leeway, although contend with strong, desiccating spring winds that are tough on transplants. So wherever you live, the sooner the better!

Improve Garden Soil

Vegetables need loose, well-drained soil to flourish. Compacted soil inhibits water, air, and nutrient movement. If you grew stunted carrots or other root crops, excessive compaction may be an issue. Use a soil fork or spade to turn over soil to a depth of 18 inches. Layer 4 to 6 inches of compost on top of the soil and dig it in thoroughly to a depth of 10 to 12 inches. The root systems of most annual plants reach no more than 12 inches deep. Some are less than that, but soil still needs to be loose and well drained to leach salts beyond the roots. Rake the soil smooth and water it to allow weed seeds to germinate. Pull before planting with your summer crops.

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