Southwestern Deserts

November, 2013
Regional Report

Thin Seedlings

Crowding results in thin, spindly, yellowing plants competing for light, air, and water. Follow spacing recommendations on vegetable and flower seed packs for thinning those plants. Thin wildflower seedlings to 8 to 12 inches apart. Snip them off at their bases with scissors because pulling can uproot or disturb roots of nearby seedlings.

Force Paperwhite Bulbs

Choose the biggest, fattest bulbs you can find as they are more likely to send up multiple shoots. Fill your container an inch or two from the rim with small rocks, aquarium pebbles, marbles, polished sea glass, or similar items. Closely nestle bulbs into the pebbles, and fill in around them. As a guideline, the bulbs should be buried up to their "shoulders" -- where the bulb starts to narrow at the top. That way they'll have support to hold them steady when the shoots and flowers appear.

Sow Cool-Season Vegetable Seeds

Continue sowing cool-season veggies, including salad greens; root crops; and members of the cabbage family, such as bok choy, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, and cauliflower. The latter also can be set out as transplants. Plant in improved soil in a bed that receives 6 to 8 hours of full sun daily. Keep soil consistently moist until seeds germinate.

Plant Bulbs

Bulbs need excellent drainage. Turn or loosen soil to a depth of 18 inches and incorporate 4 to 6 inches of organic matter, such as compost. Sprinkle a little phosphorus fertilizer in the bottom of the planting holes. Phosphorus does not move as readily through the soil as nitrogen does, so placing it in the root zone ensures its availability. Add a top layer of several inches of mulch, and moisten soil thoroughly.

Change Automatic Timers

Reduce the frequency of watering because landscape plants heading into dormancy don't use as much water. Water established desert-adapted trees, shrubs, and ground covers once every 14 to 30 days; non-desert plants may need water every 7 to 12 days. Water should always penetrate the same depth through the root system: 1 foot for annuals and succulents; 2 feet for shrubs; and 3 feet for trees.

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