Southwest

What to do in your garden in March
Kim Nelson

PLANNING

Order flowering plants. Consider yellow chocolate flower (Berlandiera lyrata), Gaura lindheimeri 'Pink Cloud', or white or wine-colored poppy mallow (Callirhoe alcaeoides or C. involucrata); all are available as small transplants from High Country Gardens ( www.highcountrygardens.com or 800/925-9387). Other low-water choices include salmon- to orange-colored apricot mallow ( Sphaeralcea ambigua), bright pink Parry's penstemon ( P. parryi), and blue and purple Penstemon spectabilis, available as seeds from Plants of the Southwest ( www.plantsofthesouthwest.com or 800/788-7333).

PLANTING

Bare-root fruit trees. Sunset climate zones 2b-3a (Taos, Prescott): Plant bare-root stock of apples, apricots, nectarines, peaches, and pears.

Citrus. Zones 11-13 (Las Vegas, Tucson, Phoenix): Grapefruit ('Marsh Seedless', 'Redblush'), lemon ('Eureka', 'Lisbon'), mandarin or tangerine ('Daisy', 'Fairchild'), sweet orange ('Trovita', 'Valencia'), and tangelo ('Minneola', 'Orlando'). For container culture, try 'Improved Meyer' lemon and 'Mexican' lime, both of which can be moved indoors during winter.

Plants that attract butterflies. Draw butterflies to your landscape and keep them there by planting their favorites: butterfly bush (Buddleja), butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), chaste tree (Vitex), Coreopsis, Jupiter's beard (Centranthus ruber), lantana, mint, rosemary, and yarrow (Achillea).

Rabbit-resistant plants. Bunnies will eat just about anything, but they tend to dislike highly aromatic plants like lavender, marigold, mint, rosemary, salvia, and society garlic. Rabbits also find these unappealing: Agave, euphorbia, lantana, Mexican evening primrose, nandina, plumbago, and verbena. Start with plants large enough to survive some nibbling.

Summer-blooming bulbs. Zone 10 (Albuquerque, Sedona): Set out gladiolus corms when all danger of frost is past and the soil warms to 65°. Zones 11-13: Plant bulbs of amaryllis, caladium, canna, crinum, Hymenocallis, and Zephyranthes.

Vegetables. Zone 10: Outdoors, sow seeds of broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, kohlrabi, radishes, and spinach. Indoors, start seeds of eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes for transplanting in six weeks. Zones 11-13: Outdoors, sow seeds of bush beans, cucumbers, jicama, melons, okra, and summer and winter squash. At month's end, set out transplants of artichokes, eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes.

MAINTENANCE

Divide perennials. Zones 10-13: Divide clump-forming perennials like chrysanthemums and daylilies.

Fertilize. Most plants appreciate a dose of nitrogen this month. Feed fruit and ornamental trees, shrubs, lawns, groundcovers, perennials, and annuals that have been in the ground at least six weeks.

Mulch. Spread a 4- to 6-inch layer of compost, gravel, shredded bark, or wood chips around plants to keep roots cool and conserve soil moisture.

Prune herbs, shrubs. At month's end, cut back overgrown herbs like oregano, sage, and tarragon. Prune frost-damaged wood from bougainvillea, dalea, oleander, and other tender shrubs. Use sharp pruners; after each cut, clean blades with a solution of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water to prevent the spread of diseases.

Water. Zones 10-13: As days lengthen and get warmer, adjust irrigation schedules. Citrus and fruit trees need water every 10 to 14 days.