Spring 'to-do' list dictated by demands of weather
February ended with an extended dry spell and above-average temperatures. Suddenly we see new leaves and flowers emerging from winter's dry branches, and fruit trees and shrubs are adorned with spring color and the fervent activity of bees.
After what was a fairly wet winter, with slow melting snow in shaded areas of our yards, annual grasses and weeds are popping up in many places. Our spring "to do" list is really dictated by the demands of our weather.
Now is the time to weed - do not wait for the grasses and other weeds to start producing seed. Good upkeep now is an investment that will reduce work in the future.
The best way to eliminate weeds is to pull them or hoe them up while they are young. We can only hope that March will provide its normal rain to make the job easier.
Then, during the growing season, keep pulling the weeds as they appear.
If you have a problem area of your garden with thick weeds and few native or ornamental plants it can be very effective to cover that area with heavy black plastic before it seeds and let the sun cook the weeds.
Next year you will see that the area under the plastic is virtually weed-free and that the decomposed weeds actually improved the soil.
We do not recommend using herbicides since they damage overall soil health, biology and chemistry, killing beneficial micro-organisms and essential nutrients.
In addition to hurting the life in the soil, evidence indicates that they also endanger the health of people, pets, wildlife and insects.
In early March you can still do some last-minute pruning. The fresh cuts may drip sap, but the cuts will heal as the sap dries and the plant starts its vigorous growth cycle.
It is also a good time to plant crops that like cooler temperatures such as root vegetables, peas, leafy greens and anything in the cabbage family, in addition to annual and perennial flowers.
You can prepare your beds and containers by adding compost and mulch, and installing drip irrigation so you are ready when the weather heats up.
Warm-weather crops for the summer vegetable garden − tomatoes, beans squash, peppers, cucumbers, eggplant − need nighttime temperatures consistently over 50 degrees. However they can be started in pots indoors now until danger of frost has passed.
According to local lore, the leafing out of Mesquite trees indicates the last frost, and Mothers' Day brings us temperatures that are favorable for putting in summer veggies.
Since we have a fairly long growing season, successive plantings will produce over an extended period, so one does not have to plant everything at once.
There is a planting calendar available on the Gardens for Humanity website which has been adapted from the University of Arizona Master Gardeners extension: www.gardensforhumanity.org this is a great tool for helping you plan your garden.