It’s time to get your garden ready for the burst of spring growth.
Tip of the Month
The genus Helianthus includes the muchloved annual sunflower (Helianthus annuus), as well as several perennial species that make great, long-blooming garden plants.
The annual sunflower produces flowers that measure from 5 to 12 inches across. These bright beauties will grow well in the low desert. Seed can be sown or transplants set out anytime after early March. Another time to plant would be in early August. Once established, water deeply to encourage a strong root system for support. Good soil drainage is very important. Sunflowers need a minimum of six hours of sun daily. A light application of fertilizer can be used at planting and during the growing season. Sunflowers will bloom about 55-75 days after planting. They come in an array of sizes. Small varieties, such as “Teddy Bear” and “Music Box,” grow to just two to three feet tall, while “Mammoth” or “Russian Giant,” can reach heights of eight feet or more.
Plant color annuals after mid-month such as zinnia, periwinkle, globe amaranth, verbena and portulaca. Sow seeds for warm-season vegetables: okra, melon, squash, corn and cucumbers. Plant desert-adapted trees, shrubs, vines, ground covers, cacti and succulents. Plant container-grown roses and citrus.
As temps warm, adjust irrigation systems for new plants. Water citrus every 10-14 days. Watch container plantings for drying out in March winds.
Apply nitrogen to fruit trees when buds begin to swell. Add compost and well-composted manure to vegetable beds. Give established plants a dose of balanced organic fertilizer. Fertilize roses every six weeks to prepare for spring bloom. Fertilize established fig trees now.
Transplant tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and globe artichokes. Propagate from existing succulent cuttings. Divide and plant agave, yucca and aloe offshoots. Set out strawberries, which grow best in raised beds to help prevent salt accumulation. Transplant basil, chamomile, chives, epazote, feverfew, lavender, oregano, lemon grass, rosemary, sage and santolina.
Deadhead the winter annuals. Prune frost-damaged foliage from bougainvillea, dalea, hibiscus, lantana, oleander and other shrubs. Prune perennial herbs by one-third after mid-March. Prune Texas Ranger, red bird of paradise, mountain marigold and chuparosa to encourage new growth. Cut back ornamental grasses. Remove side-buds on hybrid roses and center buds on floribundas to promote larger flowers.