February/March 2022 Garden Checklist
What to Plant: Low Elevations
Cool-season vegetables such as beets, carrots, leaf lettuce, spinach, kale, peas, radishes and turnips can still be planted from seed. Transplant artichokes, which will eventually grow to at least 4 feet wide and tall. You can also plant asparagus crowns, which are a perennial crop and resprout year after year.
Potatoes can be planted through February from “seed potatoes” or “mini tubers.” Space them approximately
12 inches apart in sandy, light soil. Red potatoes, such as ‘French Fingerling’ and ‘Red Gold,’ a red-skinned, yellow-fleshed variety, do well in the desert.
Warm-season tomatoes and peppers can be transplanted into the garden once temperatures have warmed slightly, usually in the middle of the month. Keep an ear out for frost advisories and cover new plants at night.
Butterfly gardens can be planted now and might include desert milkweed, butterfly weed, yarrow, hyssop, verbena, sweet alyssum and blanketflower. Cool-season herbs such as dill, parsley and cilantro can be planted from seed now and will grow quickly as the days get longer and also attract and provide food for butterflies.
Bare-root roses and deciduous fruits should be planted early in the month, before bud break. Choose fruit varieties with low chilling requirements, fewer than 400 hours for best results in the low desert.
Plant container-grown favorites such as grapes, blackberries, persimmons, Asian pears, peaches and apricots. Keep new plantings irrigated; windy, sunny days increase plants’ water requirements.
What to Plant: Middle Elevations
Direct seed leafy greens such as kale, chard, spinach and lettuce. Sow snap pea seeds near a trellis to save garden space and make harvesting easier. You may need to fence off your garden from hungry rabbits.
Start seeds for peppers, tomatoes and eggplants indoors now for transplanting next month.
What to Plant: High Elevations
As the days get longer, the soil will start to warm up enough for outdoor planting. Start celery, onion and celeriac seeds indoors now. After March 15, you can plant garlic sets, strawberry and asparagus crowns, and rhubarb outdoors. Always select short-season varieties when gardening at high elevations.
Garden Maintenance: All Elevations
Troubleshoot and repair your irrigation system before it gets hot and plant water requirements peak. Check to make sure that drip emitters are in place and not clogged with salts or other debris.
Garden Maintenance: Low Elevations
Begin pruning frost-damaged plants when no more frigid nights are predicted, usually after Feb. 20.
MANAGE GARDEN PESTS
Cull vegetable plants that are declining or covered in aphids. Remove light aphid infestations by wiping stems with a dampened cloth.
Turn compost every three to five days and keep the moisture content comparable to a wet sponge that has been wrung out. Finished compost can be added to the vegetable garden or flower beds to boost organic matter and provide essential elements for the plants.
PINE TREE IRRIGATION
Irrigate pines to a depth of 3 feet if there has not been at least of 3 inches of rain during the winter so far. Use a soil probe, available at some garden centers, to check depth. The probe will slide easily through moist soil and stop once it has reached dry soil.
MANAGE PESTS AND DISEASES
Apply dormant oil to trees and shrubs before they leaf out to protect against mites, aphids and scale insects. Recognize weed seedlings in vegetable and flower beds and remove them before they become established and crowd out desirable plants.
We’ve noticed our Mexican lime tree has been producing large, bitter fruit. The tree froze and almost died a few years ago but grew back from shoots near the bottom. What can we do to restore the original, delicious fruit?
Fruit trees, including citrus, are usually grafted. Stems from varieties that produce the desirable fruit, called scions, are grafted onto the roots of a different variety that is resistant to disease and does well in local soils. The tree that provides the roots is called the rootstock. In Arizona, citrus is commonly grafted onto sour orange or rough lemon rootstock, neither of which produce a fruit that most of us would want to eat. It sounds like the scion of your tree died during the freeze but the rootstock didn’t. The only way to restore the limes is to have them re-grafted onto the rootstock. There are several videos on the internet that demonstrate how to graft citrus, if you want to try it yourself. Or you might want to call a citrus nursery to inquire about someone who can be hired to do it for you, or you might choose to remove the tree and start with a new one.
Garden Maintenance: Middle Elevations
Prune roses and other June-blooming ornamentals. Cut back ornamental grasses to encourage vigorous growth.
MONITOR THE WEATHER
Cover frost-sensitive plants at night to protect against damage to new growth. Adjust irrigation based on the weather. Decrease irrigation in cool, rainy weather and water more often if it is a particularly warm, dry spring.
FERTILIZE DECIDUOUS FRUIT TREES AND BERRIES
Fertilize with a 10-10-10 fertilizer to support new growth and flowers. Always follow fertilizer applications with irrigation to dissolve the product and ensure that the roots are able to absorb the nutrients.
Garden Maintenance: High Elevations
If snow has accumulated, use a long-handled tool to knock it from tree limbs to avoid breakage.
In mid-March you can prune roses and deciduous fruit trees.
Support new growth by incorporating a complete fertilizer into the soil and following with a deep watering.
We live on a very rocky, south-facing hillside in Ahwatukee. It gets very hot and there is not much growing in our landscape, except a paloverde and a few small shrubs. What can we plant that will add interest but survive the heat?
Ahwatukee is in the Sonoran Desert, which is the most diverse desert in the U.S. There are many options that will do well, as long as you stay with plants that are native to the area. Stick with smaller plants, which will not require a large planting hole and will be easier to install. Elephant tree (Bursera microphylla) is an interesting native to look for at nurseries specializing in desert natives and will thrive in the foothills of South Mountain. Native grasses offer different textures that are pleasing, such as side oats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula) and deergrass (Muhlenbergia rigens). Sprinkle native wildflower mixes ahead of March rains to fill in between rocks.