Southwestern Deserts

October, 2012
Regional Report

Protect Young Flowers and Vegetables

Birds love succulent tender seedlings. Protect cool-season seedlings as they sprout with floating row covers made from lightweight synthetic fabric. They allow air, sunlight, and water to penetrate but create a barrier to birds, as well as some insect pests. Keep the fabric off seedlings by draping it over some type of framework, such as PVC pipe. Secure the cover at the bottom to prevent entry.

Sow Parsley

Basil is a warm-season favorite in the desert, but now that the cool season has arrived, it's time to switch to parsley, which is another multi-tasker in the kitchen. Chop it up and add to almost anything for a burst of fresh flavored vitamins and antioxidants. (Parsley pesto, anyone?) Sow seed directly in the ground in full sun and keep moist until germination.

Plant Bulbs

Although hungry critters will eat almost anything, some bulbs they seem to ignore according to gardener reports include allium, daffodil, fritillaria, hyacinth, oxalis, snowdrop, and squill, Crocuses and tulips seem to be gourmet delights for critters. Plant both in wire cages to foil burrowing gophers. Although crocus will perform in low and high desert elevations, tulips are best grown only by high desert gardeners.

Decide What to do with your Winter Lawn

If you choose to overseed Bermuda grass with ryegrass seed for a green winter lawn, do so between mid-October and mid-November when night temperatures remain at less than 65 degrees F. Water seeded rye two times daily for 10 to 15 minutes for the first two weeks. Reduce to one watering every other day for 15 to 20 minutes the third week. Then water every 5 to 10 days, depending on soil and weather. Water should soak 4 to 6 inches deep with each application. If you prefer to save water, time, and labor, allow Bermuda to go dormant for the cool season. Irrigate monthly to a depth of 8 to 10 inches. (Bermuda has deeper roots than rye.) No mowing is needed during dormancy.

Adjust Irrigation Timers

Remember to change automatic irrigation timers to reduce watering frequency as temperatures continue to cool. Overwatering in winter encourages root rot. Timers should be adjusted at least 4 times through the year to coincide with temperature changes. Always apply the same amount of water (to soak through each plant's root system); it is the frequency of application that changes with the seasons.

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