March is a busy month for most desert gardeners. The new seed catalogs have come out, and plans are well underway for anyone putting in a vegetable garden. If you are relatively new to gardening and want to try something a little less intimidating, this is the month for planting herbs. Most will do very well in containers, which have the added benefit of portability. Container gardening allows you experiment with growing things different areas in your yard. Herbs make great companions for other plants too. They can easily be tucked around vegetables and flowers, or even incorporated into landscape.
The average rainfall in the Phoenix metropolitan area for March is 0.9 inches (University of Arizona, College of Agriculture). While spring rains are nice, a generous peppering of weeds usually follows. Spray or pull the weeds, but take care if you are going to use pre-emergent. Do not apply it to any spaces where you plan to plant from seed.
- You can prune frost-sensitive plants such as hibiscus and bougainvillea after they begin to leaf out.
- Prune citrus only enough to remove dead wood or clear space around buildings or walkways. This pruning should be accomplished no later than mid-month in order to allow new growth time to protect any exposed bark from the sun.
- Continue to water deeply and infrequently. Unless there is a generous amount of rain, water landscape plants at least once during the month.
- Take care not to overwater lawns; once or twice a week should be sufficient.
- Feed deciduous fruit trees with a nitrogen fertilizer when they begin to show new growth.
- Thin citrus and other deciduous fruit to promote larger growth of the fruit left on the tree.
- Established roses should still be fed every six weeks. Remember to water them well the day before. To encourage bloom, sprinkle with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of Epsom Salts (magnesium sulfate) around the base of each plant and water well. Foliar application may be used as an alternative. Mix 1 rounded tablespoon of Epsom salts to a gallon of water and spray the leaves.
- If you have not done so already, prepare spring garden soil. Work in organic matter, such as compost, to a depth of 6 – 8 inches.
- Place mulch around the base of plants to deter weeds.
- Plant citrus trees this month.
- Plant from seed: beans (lima and snap), beets, carrots, corn, cucumbers, jicama, melons (cantaloupe, muskmelon, watermelon), okra, onions (green), peanuts, pumpkins, radishes, squash and sunflowers.
- Plant from transplants: artichokes (Globe & Jerusalem), eggplant, peppers and tomatoes.
- Annual flowers may be planted this month. Garden centers will be full of colorful options, or you can still plant many from seed.
If you have saved space in your garden for flowers, don’t forget to add a few sunflowers. Their vibrant faces will help usher in a fabulous, low desert spring and provide your yard with cheer throughout the summer. Whether you’ve planned an elaborate garden, or a handful of patio containers, this is the month to gear up and get planting!
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