Let’s Talk About the Weather
As I write this the weather casters are saying that February brings a warm weekend and then possibly snow on the way! Some newbie local gardeners are bemoaning the fact that they put out their tomatoes already. Some of us longtime gardeners are biting our tongues to NOT say “We told you so!”
Average Last Frost Date
This date is important! Average means that it’s just the somewhere in the middle of the pack! Frost can end as early as February, or as late as the end of April. Yes, we can have frost and snow as late as April 16, when we got 2 inches in downtown Tucson in 1976. 2 inches of SNOW! Frost is even later.
If you live out in Arivaca or up in Oracle, the last frost date is later than Tucson. Just because we are zone 8b or 9 doesn’t mean a freeze will not occur in May.
[[Remember how to do averages? You take all the numbers, add them up and divide by the number of numbers you used in your adding. 3+8+10 = 21 Now 21 divided by 3 = 7. See, somewhere in the middle of the pack.]]
When is the Average Last Frost Date?
Alas the Pima County Cooperative Extension service fell down on the job. About 20 years ago they had a nice handy chart that they would reel off the numbers for callers. I am going to try to do this from memory. If you have a different date, please share it with us! Gardening is a team sport!
Tucson City Center – March 10
Orange Grove & Oracle – March 1
Airport – March 15
Tanque Verde Wash – April 15
Rillito River – April 1
Marana – March 20
Green Valley – April 10
Arivaca – April 15
Vail – April 10
Catalina – April 10
Fertilizer for February
Deciduous plants will start actively growing as the soils warm. The roots may be working even if you don’t see shoots. Some of these need fertilizer late in February. Avoid fertilizer on plants with tropical genes! This includes plants like cacti, citrus, yellow bells, loquat, and bougainvillea. If plants put on new growth too early in the year, a late frost can harm them.
Maintenance for February
No need to prune anything except roses and young deciduous fruit trees you are training. Prune them as early in February as you can. I’ll write about this next week or two.
In general though – don’t prune anything. Leave frost nipped branches on lantana and bougainvillea until spring, which is March 21. This protects from further frost damage. There is not very much maintenance to do in the garden this month, just enjoy the season and the flowers and vegetables you have, and some planting you can do.
Chores for February 2020
Anytime during February
Catch and remove winter weeds as they germinate.
Plant annual color plants like pansies or carnations from the nursery.
Prune your roses.
Plant native perennials like desert marigold, globe mallow, penstemon, evening primrose, from seed or seedlings from the nursery.
Fertilize your winter rye lawn once monthly.
Plant onions, garlic and other bulbs.
Water wildflower beds if we don’t get rain.
Plant new grape vines.
Start the spring vegetable seeds indoors (tomatoes, squash, sunflowers).
Harvest and enjoy your winter herbs like cilantro and dill.
Fertilize established deciduous fruit trees, like plum, apricot, almond.
Fertilize established roses and grapes.
Optionally fertilize early spring bulbs (narcissus, daffodil) with a bloom fertilizer.
If you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my free lectures that I mention on my Facebook page. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including Month by Month Gardening for Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press). This link is to Amazon and if you buy the book there I may get a few pennies.
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