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desert gardening basics
february 2013 gardening checklist for arizona’s low elevation
February 2013 Gardening Checklist for Arizona’s Low Elevation
February, 2013, Page 120
ARIZONA’s LOW DESERT
WHAT TO PLANT
Tomato, tomatillo and pepper
—Set out transplants after mid-February to get a jumpstart on the season. Protect from late-season frosts.
—Sow seeds indoors to transplant into the garden in March. ‘Mrs. Burns’ Famous Lemon’ basil, a variety found growing in New Mexico, is available from Native Seeds/SEARCH,
—Plant “certified seed potatoes” from a reputable grower; they have been inspected and are disease-free. Do not plant potatoes from a grocery store, which likely have been chemically treated to inhibit sprouting and may not perform well in the garden. Cut each large seed potato into five or six pieces with at least one eye (dormant bud) in each piece.
Try early-season (maturing in 60 to 80 days) colorful varieties, such as ‘Purple Majesty’ (purple skin and flesh), ‘Purple Viking’ (purple skin, white flesh) and ‘Yukon Gold’ (yellow skin and flesh). Colorful fingerling potatoes (small tubers shaped like fat fingers that are good for roasting) include ‘Purple Peruvian’, or ‘Rose Finn Apple’, which features rosy skin and yellow flesh. As a general guideline, one pound of seed potatoes will produce about 10 pounds of spuds. Find organic seed potatoes at
—Continue sowing peas, root crops (beets, carrots, green onions, radishes, turnips) and all types of leafy greens.
—Finish transplanting roses and deciduous fruit trees this month. When purchasing roses, select Grade #1 with thick, healthy canes. For hybrid teas, which are well adapted to arid conditions and also flaunt intense fragrance, the Mesa-East Valley Rose Society recommends ‘Fragrant Cloud’, ‘Hot Princess’ and ‘Veterans’ Honor’. Fragrant climbers that thrive locally include ‘Don Juan’ and ‘The Impressionist’.
—Begin transplanting native and desert-adapted trees, shrubs, groundcovers, vines, perennials, cacti and other succulents.
Improve garden soil
—Layer 4 to 6 inches of compost or well-aged manure on top of beds to prepare for spring planting.
Fertilize fruit trees
—If you did not do so in January, feed citrus with one-third of the tree’s annual nitrogen requirement. Fertilize deciduous fruit trees (apple, apricot, pear, plum, pomegranate) with nitrogen as they begin to leaf out.
—Finish pruning by mid-month. Rake up and dispose of leaf litter around shrubs, as it may harbor powdery mildew. Apply fresh mulch. Start fertilizing when new growth is about 2 inches long. Continue feeding every 6 weeks in preparation for April’s major bloom fest.
—The Phoenix area’s last frost date is around mid-March. Be prepared to protect frost-tender plants, such as bougainvillea, citrus, hibiscus, natal plum, and annual flowers and vegetables.
Cathy Cromell is a Master Gardener and co-author of Earth-Friendly Desert Gardening (Arizona Master Gardener Press).
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