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Gardening Tools

Desert Garden Maintenance Ideas for March

March is one of the most beautiful times in our desert. This is the time to go on hikes or leisurely drives. Look around and see how nature designs her landscapes. Pay attention to things like how the flowers are tucked into the rocks. The boulders and rocks act as natural nurseries for young plants. Seeds are blown into the base where debris has gathered making the soil more fertile and able to hold moisture. The soil is insulated keeping the plant's roots warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Recreate this in your own gardens!

Spring is also when you can find local garden tours. Take advantage to get ideas for your own garden and see plants you might not have thought about before.

If we've had winter rain, the wildflowers are blooming!

 

Warm mild weather promotes rapid growth. You should be seeing a significant difference in your garden in both the plants and wildlife.

Topics covered: Planting, Pruning, Flowering, Vegetables, Irrigation, Pests, Weeds, and Fertilizer

Planting

Early fall is the optimal planting time in our desert but we can still plant in spring. Plants as soon as possible this month. Your goal is to get your plants established before the summer heat.

Consider adding ground covers to mitigate heat and retain moisture in your soil.

Now is the time to plant desert trees. Make sure when planting to dig a bowl or basin around the tree to help with deep watering.

Pruning

You should be finishing any pruning projects this month. You want the plants to have plenty of time to recover before the summer heat hits.

Remember, it's best to not cut off more than one-third of the plant.

 

Most importantly, if you can tell it's been pruned, it was done incorrectly! Your job is to help the plant maintain its natural shape not force it to be the shape you want it.

 

At this time of year, you want to look for frost-damaged branches, check for leggy growth that needs pruning back, and determine if the plant is overgrown.
 

Don't prune while the plant is flowering. Wait until October.

 

If the plant is a summer grower, like a mesquite, I recommend waiting until after its growth spurt and prune in October. 

Thoroughly water after pruning. A tip I learned a few years ago was to take the hose and spray the newly pruned tips. This is supposed to soften the wood making it easier for new growth. Whether it works, I don't know but at least my plant's leaves are getting washed off.

Irrigation

Continue to increase your water as the temperatures rise. If you do not already have one, consider a smart timer. Most local water agencies offer incentives or even free ones!

If you are not on automatic irrigation and are hand watering, now is when you want to do deep watering in preparation for the rapid spring growth. Fill your basins and allow the water to slowly soak in. You want a minimum of 2-3 feet deep saturation for most plants.

Spring is when we can get our winds. Strong drying winds will cause plants to need more water. Get to know your plants and check them after windy days.

Vegetables

March is when we plant our warm-season crops as well as citrus here in the low desert. Melons, Pumpkins, Squash, Beans

 

Keep up with harvesting. You should see a rapid increase in the growth of your plants

Flowering

This time of year, everything seems to be blooming at once! It is truly one of the most exquisite times in our desert.

 

Most all of your nectar plants are blooming

If we've had winter rain, the wildflowers should be in full force by the end of the month. 

Pests, Weeds, and Fertilizer

PESTS: Warmer weather brings more bugs, both good and bad to our gardens. The good news is that most "bad" bugs don't like the summer heat and will soon be gone. In my opinion, the best thing to do in most cases is to wait and let nature take care of itself.

Aphids are still the most common pest this time of year. Since they are very plant-specific, you do not always have to worry about them.  Certain aphids only like certain plants and won't bother others. Before you decide what to do about them, decide if they are actually causing a problem. If you determine they are damaging your plants, the easiest control method is hitting them with a strong jet of water.

Another common thing we start to see this time of year is perfect circles cut in the leaves of plants. This is usually caused by one of our native bees the Megachilidae or leaf-cutting bee.  We start to see them when the temperature is consistently above 75 degrees. This is not a pest but one of our native pollinators! The leaf-cutting bee uses its legs to cut the circles in the leaves - they do not eat it. So when you spray an insecticide on your plant to stop this behavior you are not doing anything but needlessly spraying chemicals on your plant and potentially harming things you are trying to attract.

WEEDS: weeds are just like all the other plants experiencing rapid growth.  Your best defense is to get them when they are young BEFORE they flower. Continue to keep an eye out for Sahara Mustard. It is an incredibly invasive weed. If you have this it's important to dispose of the flowers and seeds.

FERTILIZE: If you are going to fertilize, now is the time. If using granular fertilizer water thoroughly. Note: native plants do not generally need added fertilizers.

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