Southwestern Deserts

June, 2012
Regional Report

Shade Citrus Trunks

Citrus bark is highly susceptible to sunburn, which causes cracking and peeling. This damage allows easy entry for pests and diseases. Some people apply white latex paint that is designed for tree trunks. If you do not care for this appearance, loosely wrap exposed areas with layers of cardboard, burlap, or similar material. Remove it at the end of summer. Also, copy professional citrus growers and let lower branches stay on the trunk, rather than pruning trees into lollipop shapes. This low-hanging foliage protects the bark from sunburn and also makes fruit picking easier.

Examine Lawns for Pearl Scale

If Bermuda lawns have areas that are either dead or yellowish-brown not caused by ineffective watering or fertilizing, it may be pearl scale. Dig up a chunk and examine the roots for these tiny white insects that resemble pearls. If found, dig up all affected grass and roots and dispose of it in the trash. Disinfect tools so the scale does not spread to other areas of the lawn. Unfortunately, there is no chemical control for this pest that works effectively with one application. An appropriate pesticide can be applied from May through July when the young scale insects are active. At other times of year, the scale adults have a protective coat so the control is of no use.

Prune Old Garden Roses

Prune once-blooming old garden roses, also called heritage roses, after their spring bloom ends. They bloom on one-year-old or older wood, so pruning now will create wood for flowering next spring. Use sharp by-pass pruners, which work with a scissors action and do less tissue damage than anvil pruners. Disinfect pruners between plants to avoid spreading pests and diseases. Seal all pruning cuts with wood glue to prevent cane borers from entering.

Solarize Garden Soil

If gardens have had fungal diseases or nematodes in the past, you might want to try soil solarization. This organic method works in the heat of summer. Basically, you are heating up the soil like an oven to kill many fungi, nematodes, and weed seeds. (Earthworms will dive deeper to avoid the heat.) Layer manure or other fresh organic matter on top of the soil, sprinkle it with water, and cover with clear heavy plastic. The nitrogen in the organic matter and the water will heat things up more quickly. Clear plastic allows the sun to shine through. Leave it on for 6 to 8 weeks. Soil temperatures should reach about 140 degrees F. Weight the edges of the plastic with bricks so the wind can not get beneath, allowing heat to dissipate.

Plant Butterfly Perches

Adult butterflies sip nectar from the flowers of a wide variety of easy-to-grow plants, although blooms with flat landing pads that they can perch on while inserting their long proboscises seem to be favorites. Such flowers include aster, calendula, coreopsis, gaillardia, spreading fleabane, lantana, Mexican sunflower, zinnia. They also visit herb flowers such as mint, rosemary, salvia, and verbena.

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