So much gardening advice is based around four-season climates, but a sizable contingent of the United States is only now entering ideal gardening weather. If you live in a desert region, guidelines about how to prepare your garden beds for the colder months probably aren’t helpful, but advisories over what to do with your cacti are.
Here’s what you should do to prepare your desert landscaping for fall and winter.
How to care for your cacti in winter
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Cacti and succulents slow down growth over the winter as the temperatures drop. As they hibernate, they need less water, to prevent their roots from rotting. If you’re worried about not watering enough, any cactus wilting will mean that it needs water. Skip the fertilizer until Spring. Although your cacti are likely accustomed to and suited to the weather in your area, be wary of frosts or possible freezes. Your columnar cacti can benefit from their tips being protected, which is why you often see these cacti with styrofoam cups on them to insulate the ends. If you don’t have styrofoam, you can be creative. Buckets, fabric, pool noodles or santa hats will do.
How to care for citrus trees in winter
Hopefully, you fertilized for the last time this year in September to help the fruit harvest, and you should start to see color on your citrus through October. In November, some early ripening citrus might be ready, but otherwise, it’s time to button things up for winter. As the trees go into dormancy, make sure to decrease water dramatically, and be ready to cover your trees with sheets if there is a risk of frost. Burlap or frost cloth can also work for this purpose. If your tree starts to shed leaves come December, that just means it is focused on the fruit that should be ready come January, when the next fertilizer cycle will begin.
Get your vegetables in the ground
While the rest of the country thinks of winter vegetables as very cold hardy crops, in the desert you can get away with much warmer weather crops. While you should definitely get peas, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and carrots in the ground now, many people successfully overwinter their tomatoes, peppers and eggplants by simply covering them during frosts and backing off the watering.
How to care for desert grasses in winter
Although it seems ironic, there’s plenty of residential areas in the desert and they enjoy a lawn. October is prime time to get your winter rye in place so you can enjoy a cold weather lawn. Since ryegrass dies in spring, most people use an overseeding method, which means that you simply sprinkle seeds over an existing lawn, making sure to get ground contact with those seeds, and then watering three times a day to ensure they germinate. Once established, winter rye doesn’t require as much water as a traditional lawn.
Prune your desert landscaping before winter hits
November is the perfect time to prune established trees and shrubs as they go into hibernation. Olive trees have just fruited, citrus is already on the tree and can be thinned, and most natives are in hibernation.