Southwestern Deserts

January, 2014
Regional Report

Start Tomato and Pepper Plants

Sow seeds for tomatoes and peppers indoors so they are ready to transplant outside in mid-February to mid-March. For tomatoes, choose varieties that mature quickly or are heat resistant for best chances of success. Use a sterile, soilless potting mix, such as vermiculite and perlite, and sterilize flats or containers to help prevent damping off disease. Keep soil mix consistently moist until seeds germinate. When seedlings start to grow, rotate the container one-quarter turn daily so they don't bend towards the light.

Prune Modern Roses

Cut back hybrid teas and grandifloras severely to promote their major bloom period, which starts in April. Begin by removing dead, crossed, or crowded canes. Remove any canes that grow across the center of the plant. Then cut back one-third to one-half of the bush, leaving 4 to 8 of the youngest, sturdiest canes. Strip all foliage and twiggy growth.

Watch for Aphids

Monitor plants with tender new growth for aphids. These tiny soft-bodied insects suck the sap and leave behind a sticky honeydew. Aphids are usually green or greyish-black, although they come in various colors. Wash them off with a strong spray of water from the hose. Chemical sprays are unnecessary for aphids. An alternative is to ignore them, because beneficial insects, such as lady beetles and green lacewings, will arrive to consume them.

Fertilize Citrus

Divide your citrus tree's total annual nitrogen requirements into three equal feedings. Apply one third in January or February. Apply the remainder in April/May and August/September. The amount depends on the tree's size and how many years it has been in the ground. Use a citrus fertilizer and follow package instructions. Water thoroughly after applying fertilizer to prevent burn.

Plant Cool-Season Veggies

There's still plenty of time to plant cool-season veggies. Continue to sow seeds for greens (leaf lettuces, bok choy, chard, kale, mustard, collards, spinach) and root crops (carrots, beets, rutabagas, radishes, turnips, green onions, leeks). Sow seeds for members of the cabbage family (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower) early in the month, or set out transplants later.

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