If you have a lawn or a garden in our Arizona desert, you might need a little assistance with what to expect in your garden, and what to do in your garden at certain times of the year. Here are some basic tips for caring for your desert plants, flowers, vegetables, and trees.
Your Desert Garden - Monthly Do List for February
Even though it is starting to get a little warmer in the Valley, we can still have an occasional frost. Don't forget that weather forecasts are generally quoted from Sky Harbor International Airport, and many of the outlying parts of the Valley can be up to 10°F colder than that at night. Be prepared to cover frost-tender plants.
Aphids may be present on many plants. The best control is natural predators, such as lacewings, and praying mantis. Acquaint yourself with these insects, and if present do not use insecticides. Hosing the aphids off with a forceful spray of water is helpful in gaining control. A couple of drops of dish soap in a spay bottle of water can also be very effective.
- Ryegrass should be watered about once or twice a week depending on the weather. Bermuda grass needs water about once a month.
- Bermuda will begin to turn green when nighttime lows reach about 65 degrees.
- Fertilize fruit, nut and shade trees, shrubs and vines.
- Pecan trees and grape vines need a zinc rich fertilizer to help them produce their best.
- Now is the time for shaping citrus trees a little, if you must. Normally there is no need to prune citrus like regular fruit trees. Try to let the citrus foliage grow to about knee high. The best fruit is produced on the lower two thirds of the tree so raising the skirt reduces the amount of the fruit you will get.
- Clean out dead wood.
- Remove any suckers growing from below the graft.
- Shape your ornamental shrubs so the new spring growth will fill in the bare branches and holes left from pruning.
- While pruning frost damaged plants, wait and prune after new growth has started.
- Prepare flower beds for spring gardens.
- Freshen up flowerbeds by removing faded or spent blooms.
- Bare-root roses should be in the ground this month, the earlier the better.
- Begin fertilizing established roses with granular fertilizers about the middle of the month.
- Clean out dead or diseased wood in roses.
- Remove weak and crossing canes and old leaves to discourage insects and disease.
- Plant seeds: beans, beets, bok choy, carrots, swiss chard, cucumbers, leaf lettuce, melons, mustard, onions, peas, potatoes, radishes, spinach, , sunflowers, turnips, watermelons, Martha Washington asparagus (roots or crowns).
- Plant transplants: artichokes, asparagus, chard, kohlrabi, lettuce, onion, peppers and tomatoes.
- If you set out transplants before mid-February protect them from the cold.
- Prepare your soil for a spring/summer garden. Organic matter, mulch, manure or compost is very important.
- Fertilize producing vegetable gardens.
- Corn may be seeded after mid-February. Plant short day varieties (less than 70 days).
Your Desert Garden - Monthly Don't List for February
- When pruning don't ever remove more than 1/4 of the total plant. Always use sharp, sterile, quality pruning tools and disinfect them between cuts to prevent the spread of disease.
- Don't cheat on soil preparation for flowers and vegetables.
- Don't fertilize dormant Bermuda grass until late April or May.
- Don't plant roses with western exposure because of the afternoon summer heat.
- Too much fertilizer can cause salt burn and too little can cause nutrient deficiency problems. Water both the day before and immediately after applying granular fertilizers.
- Don't fertilize mature trees near the trunk. Fertilize the outer two thirds of the ground of the leaf canopy where the most active roots are.
- Don't water grass at night when the temperatures are coolest as this fosters the growth of fungal diseases.
- Don't mow when grass is wet. This also may result in fungal disease.
- Don't delay on weed control. Handle weeds while they are young, tender, and their roots are manageable, or before they sprout.
- Don't use a pre-emergent in an area where you are going to plant veggies and flowers from seed. It will prevent seeds from germination. It will not affect transplants.
Information contained herein was obtained from the The University of Arizona, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and John Chapman's Southwest Gardening with their permission. Keep in mind that soil and conditions vary from location to location. Check with a local yard or landscape expert for specific issues with your garden.