Southwestern Deserts

July, 2012
Regional Report

Aerate Lawns

Aeration, basically poking holes in the lawn, allows better penetration of air, nutrients, and water to the grasses' root system, resulting in healthier turf. Use a foot press aerator for small patches or rent an aerator from an equipment rental service for large lawns. Do this in the midst of summer, when grass is growing vigorously and can recover quickly. Generally, aeration once every two to four years is sufficient.

Feed Summer Veggies

Vegetable crops are heavy feeders. Monitor beans, corn, cucumbers, eggplants, melons, and squash. If lower, older leaves are yellowing, it is a sign of nitrogen deficiency. Organic nitrogen fertilizers such as blood meal or fish emulsion require further decomposition before they are available for root uptake, so if properly applied according to package instructions, should not burn roots. If using a granular chemical fertilizer, water around the plants before and after feeding so the fertilizer will not burn the dry roots. You may wish to apply at half strength to be on the safe side.

Control Spider Mites

Hard to see with the naked eye, tiny eight-legged spider mites thrive in summer, being particularly fond of dusty foliage. You are more likely to first spy their fine webbing or notice a rusty appearance on leaves because common mites may be rust colored. Roses are a favorite hangout. Hose off dusty plant foliage regularly to prevent mite populations from getting out of control. Do this early in the morning before the sun heats up.

Harvest Rainwater

Use rain gutters to direct water from your roof into collection barrels. If you store rainwater before use, make sure the container is airtight to prevent mosquitoes from breeding, or place mosquito dunks in the water to keep them from breeding. Perhaps an easier method is to store rainwater in the soil. Position the rain gutter to direct water into shallow depressions, or swales, where it can soak into the ground and supply nearby roots with moisture as needed.

Monitor Water Use of Vegetables

Large leaves of vining vegetables, such as cucumbers, melons, and squash, may show signs of wilting late in the day, because the roots can't uptake sufficient water to equal the amount lost in transpiration during hot weather. A common reaction is to apply water. However, excessively wet soil encourages root rot. Instead, wait until the next morning to see if plants recover during the night. If foliage is still wilted in morning, apply water.

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