February is a difficult month in Arizona in the low deserts. The weather is warming up and all of our plants are brown from the winter frost and we are itching to start planting. Unfortunately, the weather can turn in a days notice and all of our new plants will suffer or die. Wait until March to do most of your planting and pruning. According to Cathy Babcock with the Arizona Botanical Gardens you “plant seeds that are quick to mature, such as leaf lettuce, radish, arugula, baby carrots and cilantro”. She says in February we can do the following:
“Most citrus fruits are ready to be picked now. Instead of letting them drop to the ground to rot or attract the dreaded roof rats, take them to work to share with co-workers. And food banks around the Valley will accept any citrus. As far as the trees themselves are concerned, fertilize them around mid-February. Water thoroughly before and after fertilization. In fact, consider watering all of your plants at this time if there has been no rain. If you planted wildflowers, keep them watered as it is proving to be a fairly dry late winter.
A couple of things you are allowed to prune: grasses and deciduous trees. If you have ornamental grasses in your yard, such as certain Muhlenbergia species or grama grasses (Bouteloua spp.), cut back to the ground to rejuvenate. Some, such as deer grass, should be left alone. A rule of thumb for the grasses is “if it’s brown, mow it down; if it’s green, let it be seen.” Deciduous trees can be reduced and thinned around mid-month”. Spray the new weeds popping up or pull them. We prefer not to dig them up if possible so as not to disturb the ground and germinate more seeds. Spraying kills the weed to the root and avoids pulling the same weed over and over again.
Cathy also says “Spent stalks of aloes, agaves and other succulents can be removed now. In fact, just a general yard cleanup is in order. Plants such as globe mallow (Sphaeralcea) should be showing new growth. As this plant is not susceptible to frost, cut back old stems to new growth. Spent flower stalks on penstemons, too, can be cut back to new growth if you haven’t done so already.
Now is the perfect time for an irrigation tuneup. Replace backup batteries in the controller, check for leaks and clogged emitters, and bury any lines that may have surfaced.