Southwestern Deserts

February, 2011
Regional Report

Rejuvenate Ornamental Clumping Grasses

Clumping ornamental grasses such as deer grass can become scraggly looking over time as dead material overshadows new growth. The best time to rejuvenate is late winter/early spring, just before new growth starts in your area. Cut grasses back to several inches above ground. As temperatures warm, new growth will sprout.

Fertilize Deciduous Fruit Trees

As buds begin to swell, apply nitrogen at the following rates for apples, apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches and plums. Ammonium sulfate: .5 lb. per inch of trunk diameter, up to a maximum of 5 lbs. per tree. Ammonium nitrate: .3 lb, maximum 3 lb. Blood meal: .7 lb, maximum 7 lbs. Pear trees take half these amounts.

Transplant Tomatoes and Peppers

At low desert elevations, transplant from now to mid-March and protect plants from frost. They need this early start to set a robust crop of fruit before summer. Tomatoes are fussy about consistent moisture; keep them happy by layering 6 inches of straw mulch around plants to retain soil moisture.

Monitor Weather Forecasts

We aren't out of the woods for late frosts yet, especially folks who garden at higher elevations or live in cold pockets, such as the base of mountains and foothills where cold, dense air sinks and collects. Be ready to protect tender plants and new growth with frost cloth, burlap, or old blankies.

Prune Dormant Plants

At mid-elevations, prune dormant deciduous trees, fruit trees, shrubs, grapes, currants, and gooseberries. Finish before new growth (bud break) appears. If you aren't sure how to proceed, check with local garden clubs and County Cooperative Extension. Many offer pruning demonstrations at this time of year.

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