It’s time to get your garden ready for the burst of spring growth.
Tip of the Month
The secret to producing good tomatoes and peppers in the desert is to get them planted early. Set out six-inch transplants of peppers and tomatoes between mid-February and mid- March. Cover plants if late frost is predicted. Early planting encourages fruit set. This occurs when night temperatures are above 55 degrees and daytime temperatures do not exceed 90 degrees. After 90 degrees, pollen is no longer viable and fruit set stops. Choose varieties that produce fruit in less than 70 days. Cherry tomato varieties and Early Girl are good examples of short-season cultivars. Peppers and tomatoes are heavy feeders, so add organic food monthly. Water deeply every three to four days, and add mulch to retain soil moisture. Grow basil next to peppers and tomatoes to help to repel garden pests.
Plant color annuals such as pansies, petunias, larkspur, primrose, poppy, stock, violas, alyssum, snapdragon and marigolds. Plant native or desert-adapted plants such as desert marigold, penstemon, sage and evening primrose, which are hardy enough to withstand the cold nights but benefit from extra time in the ground to establish roots. Start a new crop of cool-season vegetables, such as root vegetables, peas, leafy greens, kale and bunching onions.
Fertilize citrus, lawns, grapes and deciduous trees. Citrus fertilizers are formulated especially to provide a source of nitrogen. Fertilize roses with a slow-release fertilizer containing nitrogen and phosphorous around mid-month to encourage blooms by April. Fertilize non-native plants just as they begin active growth. Wait to fertilize tender tropicals until danger of frost is over. Natives generally do not need fertilizer.
Tomatoes must be transplanted early enough to develop roots, flower and set fruit before hot weather arrives. Plant mid-month but watch for frost and cover for protection until mid-March.
Water citrus deeply every three weeks. Watch shallow-rooted newly planted annuals, which can quickly dry out with spring winds. Adjust watering schedule according to winter rains.
Continue to harvest citrus. However, Valencia oranges are just starting to sweeten and grapefruit continues to sweeten for several months.
Wait until new shoots emerge on frost-damaged plants. Cut back ornamental grasses.