Oct. 2013 To-Do Lists: Southwest Deserts

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bulbs-in-basket-300x200October and November are good months for planting and transplanting; plant roots have time to become established while the temperatures are mild and the soil is warm. Although October is typically dry, this is also a good time to look into ways to collect rainwater for irrigation. You’ll save money on water bills and help conserve a valuable natural resource.

  • Strawberries can go into the garden this month. Give them full sun and soil with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5  Keep the crowns level with the surface of the soil, so they aren’t covered with dirt.
  • If you’ve never grown kale, try mixing it into a bed of pansies and violas. Even if you don’t like the taste of these nutritious greens, you can enjoy them as ornamentals.
  • Gather basil leaves and wash and dry them. Then chop them coarsely in a food processor with a little olive oil. Freeze in small, airtight containers for later use.
  • Plant asparagus in trenches 8″ deep and 6″ wide, amended with about 2 inches of good organic material. Let any ferns turn brown before cutting them to the surface of the soil. Mulch the bed and plan on harvesting in the second year.
  • If you plan to re-seed your lawn next spring, do a soil test now and add any amendments so they’ll have time to blend with your native soil.
  • Bulbs to grow in this region include iriis, freesia, Dutch iris, tritonia, and crocosmia. Treat tulips as annuals.
  • If you bring in plants that have summered outdoors, be careful not to bring insect “hitchhikers” with them. Soaking the pots in a solution of mild liquid soap and water can help eliminate thrips, whiteflies, and aphids.
  • Dig and divide overcrowded perennials. Prepare new beds by spreading a 3″ layer of organic matter over the area, and tilling it in about a foot deep.
  • Check timers on sprinklers and re-set as needed. As the temperatures drop, you won’t need to use as much water.
  • Plant trees, digging holes at least twice as big as their containers. Mound soil in the middle of each hole and spread the roots over it. Backfill and water thoroughly to eliminate air pockets.
  • Fill containers or flowerbeds with asters, pansies, and garden mums. Keep cool season annuals deadheaded to encourage repeat blooms.
  • Sow a cover crop of winter rye or purple vetch over your garden spot to help control weeds and erosion. It will add nitrogen to the soil when you cut it down and til it under next spring.
  • Use a mulching blade on your mower to shred fall leaves. Leave them on your lawn to decompose, or rake them into a pile. Leaf mold will eventually form at the bottom of the pile; it makes an excellent mulch.
  • For wildflowers, sow seeds of California poppies, desert marigold, Mexican hat, sunflowers, and verbena. Choose a mix blended especially for this region. Keep seeds watered daily until they sprout, and continue to water while rain is scarce.

 

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