Jan. 2014 To Do List: Desert Southwest

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grow light standAs you’re working on your New Year’s resolutions, take time to try something new in your garden, something just suited to that bare spot under the trees or unused area in the side yard. Use grow lights to start trays of flower and vegetable seedlings indoors, and you’ll get a jump on spring. (If you’re short on space, build a portable grow light stand, like the one shown at right. The shelves can be adjusted to raise or lower the lights as the plants grow taller, and the stand is attractive enough to use in a spare room or living area.)

This is also an opportunity to work on your hardscaping. Make plans for the retaining wall you’ve been needing, or add an arbor. Work out scale drawings on graph paper so you’ll be sure to leave enough room for mature plants as well as any new structures.

  • Order seeds and seed starting supplies. Early spring plants, such as broccoli, collards, cabbages and onions, can be transplanted into the garden in March.
  • Apply well-rotted manure and/or compost to the garden now. Amendments should also be applied early. Lime, for example, needs several weeks to become usable to the plants. (But keep lime off blueberries and away from areas where potatoes will be planted.)
  • ┬áDig and move perennials now.
  • Sow wildflower seeds. Look for a mix designed especially for this region.
  • Prepare beds for bare root and container roses by spading 12″ deep in an area four feet square for each plant. Add lots of good organic material to new beds.
  • Winter cuttings can be rooted now from woody plants. This is also a good time to move or plant shrubs and trees.
  • Feed citrus trees with a product formulated for them, following package directions. You can also use a basic nitrogen fertilizer. Check with your extension service office to determine the amount needed for your tree’s age, type, and growing conditions. Nitrogen is often applied three times a year: once in January, again in April or May, and again in August or September.
  • If you live at a low elevation, prune blackberries, fruit trees, and grapes by the end of January, before new growth starts. Mid-elevation area gardeners should complete pruning by the end of February or early March.
  • When you prune rose bushes, seal the cut ends with a dab of white glue or wood glue to prevent cane borers from entering.
  • Low desert gardeners can sow the seeds of cool-season crops outdoors from now into February. Make successive plantings, every 2 or 3 weeks, to ensure fresh foods for your table. Wait until after the last frost to sow warm-season crops outdoors.

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