Southwest

What to do in your garden in March
Kim Nelson

PLANTING

• Aloes. Sunset climate zones 10-13: For interesting form and a succession of seasonal color, add hardy aloes to courtyards and other protected parts of the garden. Blue-green 2-foot-tall Aloe aculeata produces red and yellow flowers in winter. Treelike A. marlothii, a South African native, grows 12 feet tall and sends up 3-foot-tall orange-red flower spikes in spring. Compact 6-inch-tall by 12-inch-wide A. brevifolia has gray-green leaves edged with small white spines, which contrast dramatically with clusters of scarlet flowers during warm weather.
More on aloes and their succulent cousins

• Arbor Day. More than a million trees were planted on the first Arbor Day in 1872. This year, it's officially observed on March 10 in New Mexico and April 28 in Arizona, Nevada, and Texas (www.arborday.org). Join the celebration by planting a native tree in your own garden. Choose desert willow, Palo brea, sweet acacia, or another species suited to your climate, and enjoy it for years to come.

• Bare-root fruit trees. Zones 2b and 3a (Taos, Prescott): Plant bare-root 'Lodi', 'Parkland', or 'Westland' apples; 'Chinese', 'Goldcot', or 'Harglow' apricots; 'Mericrest', 'Nectar Babe', or 'Necta Zee' nectarines; 'Halehaven', 'Harken', or 'Polly' peaches; or 'Harrow Delight', 'Summer Crisp', or 'Warren' pears.

• Herbs. Midmonth, direct-sow seeds of basil, German chamomile, chives, epazote, marjoram, Greek oregano, and sage. Also set out transplants of basil, bay laurel, chamomile, chives, lemon balm, lemon grass, lemon verbena, marjoram, oregano, and sage.

• Organic seedlings. Consider planting one of the certified organic seedling collections from Santa Fe's Seeds of Change (888/762-7333). Choices include butterfly-attracting plants, chile peppers, culinary herbs, herbs for tea, lavenders, sweet peppers, and tomatoes. The company also offers individual seed packets.
Tip on planting seedlings

• Summer color. Zones 10-13: Sow seeds or set out seedlings of bee balm, coreopsis, cosmos, gaillardia, scented geranium, hollyhock, marigold, portulaca, salvia, sunflower, verbena, yarrow, and zinnia.

• Vegetables. Zones 1a-3b (Flagstaff, Taos, and Santa Fe): Outdoors, plant garlic sets in beds. Indoors, start seeds of celery and onions for transplanting outdoors in six weeks. Zone 10: Outdoors, plant onion sets and sow seeds of broccoli, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, kohlrabi, radishes, and spinach. Indoors, start seeds of eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes for transplanting in six to eight weeks. Zones 11-13: Outdoors, sow seeds of black-eyed peas, bush and lima beans, cucumbers, jicama, melons, okra, and summer and winter squash. At month's end, set out transplants of artichokes, eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes. New Mexico's Roswell Seed Company (505/622-7701) sells vegetable varieties suited to the region.

MAINTENANCE

• Fertilize. Give non-native permanent plants and deciduous fruit trees a boost by applying a granular high-nitrogen fertilizer. Water deeply first, then broadcast the fertilizer below the tree's canopy; water again. Feed roses now, then fertilize again according to package directions. Container plants, flowers, lawns, and vegetables may also be fed now.