February is the month when the low desert starts to wake up from its short winter nap. With all of the sunshine and beautiful days, you might be fooled into thinking that warmer days are right around the corner. Even though warm weather is on the way, this is not the time to let down your guard completely. The low desert can still get a night or two of frost into the middle of the month. For this reason, as a general rule, do not prune or fertilize frost-sensitive plants until later in the month.
This is the perfect month to start gearing up for spring planting and gardening. Tasks include taking inventory and making sure all of your gardening tools are in good, working order. Sharpen mower blades, pruning tools and hoes if needed.
- Finish rose pruning by mid-month.
- Finish pruning grape vines and deciduous fruit trees by mid-month.
- You can prune frost-sensitive citrus trees after they begin to leaf out with new growth, usually later in the month.
- Water winter lawns twice a week, depending on rainfall.
- Continue to water deeply and infrequently, adjusting for rainfall.
- Fertilize winter lawns with a high phosphate fertilizer such as Ammonium phosphate or Superphosphate.
- Fertilize established roses mid-month and remember to give them a good watering the day before and the day after fertilizing.
- Fertilize deciduous fruit trees with nitrogen after they begin to show new growth.
- Prepare spring garden soil if you have not done so already. Add organic matter such as compost by working it in 6 – 8 inches deep.
- You may still have to protect frost-sensitive plants this month. Keep plenty of old sheets and towels on hand. Try to cover plants all the way to the ground for the best protection.
- Plant from seed: beets, bok choi, carrots, chard, collard greens, corn, cucumbers, green onions, leaf lettuce, melons (cantaloupe, muskmelon, watermelon), mustard, peas, potatoes, radishes, spinach, summer squash, sunflowers and turnips.
- Plant from transplants: artichokes (Globe & Jerusalem), asparagus, chard, kohlrabi, lettuce, onion sets, peppers and tomatoes.
- Plant bare-root deciduous fruit trees.
- Blackberries and roses can still be planted this month.
- Some annuals can be planted such as petunias, pansies and snapdragons.
By the end of the month, hummingbirds that left for winter will have returned and desert wildflowers will be blooming in all their glory. High temperatures will be in the 70s and nights will be chilly, but those of us who thrive in the desert heat will begin spending more time outdoors. It is a good month to visit the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, or the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson. No matter what else you do in February, get out and enjoy all that the Sonoran desert has to offer.
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