February is a wonderful month in the Old Pueblo. The ponies are running at the Rillito Racetrack (tons of fun), the Gem, Mineral, Fossil and Bead show is all over town (literally tons of fun), The Rodeo Parade marches through (unique fun), and the Rodeo itself happens (those bulls weigh a ton or so), plus, if you really miss snow, you can head up the Catalina Mountains to Mount Lemmon.
Luckily, with all these outside distractions, there is not much to do in the yard. Just enjoy the season and the flowers you have, and there is a little planting and tidying you can do.
I was all set to say, "One good thing about our dry winter, fewer weeds to get rid of." Then the late winter rains started. Well … now we will have weeds. That is the bad news about getting rain. The good news about all this rain is that you can easily pull the weeds out of the rain-softened soil before they go to seed.
Water. After the rains we have had, you shouldn't need to do any watering until the end of the month, if then. Except for the plants in pots, that is.
Plant color. You can add annual color like pansies, calendula, snapdragons. It is also a fine time to plant native perennials like desert marigold, penstemon and evening primrose. Easy to do now too in the rain-softened soil.
Plant food. February is fine to plant onions and garlic. They will grow as the season warms and be ready for harvest in June. Plant new grape vines if you are interested. Build the trellis or arbor first, though.
Start the spring vegetable garden seeds indoors. The spring garden features vegetables that are botanically fruits. That is, they have seeds in them. Like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash, melons, gourds, corn and all manner of beans. Okra can be grown in April as well, but I always plant it in place. Are there any readers out there with experience on whether or not you can grow okra from sets? You can also start basil seed indoors, but I usually wait and buy the sets at a nursery or from Native Seeds/SEARCH. They have a fantastic lemon basil.
No need to prune anything. Leave frost-nipped branches in place until spring really gets here, sometime after mid-March or, better yet, after April Fools Day. In case we get one last cold snap to fool us.
There is one special task for the end of the month. As the earth heads towards Spring equinox, and the soil begins to warm back up with greater sunlight, it is time to help your plants respond to the added photons and warmth. Rodeo Weekend is when my grandfather always fertilized all the established plants that would flower in the spring. But especially fertilize those plants whose flowers result in fruit.
Rodeo Weekend is the time to fertilize established citrus, deciduous fruit trees, roses and grapes. Use a fertilizer that is high in phosphorous, the second number in the string of three on the label. Phosphorous promotes flowering and good fruit set. While you are fertilizing, re-dig the wells around these plants and add a fresh layer of cedar bark or other organic mulch. Pine needles are fine for all these fruiting plants, as they help acidify the soil.
Fertilize your winter rye lawn if it is overseeded on top of Bermudagrass. This application is especially important as the weather warms and the Bermudagrass will emerge from dormancy. Usually you use a lawn fertilizer on a lawn, but this is one time it would be better to put down a general purpose fertilizer or one high in potassium to promote strong roots for the summer ahead. Some people scatter well-composted steer manure on their lawns at this time.
Enjoy all the tons of fun there is to do in the Old Pueblo this month. And enjoy your yard while you are at it.
It is easy to add a room or two onto your home by creating outdoor rooms with a planned landscape. It need not cost very much either. Turn your yard into delightful outdoor rooms with lush, desert adapted plants. To find out which plants to use and where, call for a private consultation. Call me, Jacqueline, at 292-0504. Please leave a voice message.