Southwest

What to do in your garden in February
KIM NELSON

PLANTING

Bare-root plants. Sunset climate zones 10, 11: Set out bare-root roses and fruit trees, including apples, apricots, berries, nectarines, peaches, pears, persimmons, plums, and sweet cherries. Zones 11-13: Plant bare-root grapes.

Celebrate Valentine's Day. All zones: Add color indoors with candy-colored pink and red cyclamen, 'Baby Doll' dianthus, and fragrant hyacinths. Zones 11-13: Plant Eremophila 'Valentine', an emu bush that bears hot pink to red tubular flowers from January through March. In winter, its dark evergreen leaves develop a reddish tinge. 'Valentine' reaches about 4 feet tall and slightly wider.

Herbs. Zones 11-13: Sow seeds of chives, cilantro, dill, and parsley. Set out transplants of marjoram, oregano, rosemary, sage, and thyme.

Seasonal color. Zones 12, 13: Fill beds and containers with dianthus, English primroses, larkspur, pansies, petunias, and stock.

Vegetables. Zone 10: Sow peas directly in the ground by midmonth. Start seeds of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and lettuce indoors for transplanting in six to eight weeks. Zone 11: Sow beets, carrots, lettuce, radishes, spinach, Swiss chard, and turnips. Wait until month's end to plant potatoes. Zones 12, 13: Direct-sow seeds of beets, bok choy, carrots, green onions, peas, radishes, spinach, and turnips. Set out onion sets. Sow the first crop of sweet corn at month's end. Sow seeds of cucumbers, eggplants, melons, peppers, and squash indoors for transplanting in six to eight weeks.

Wildflowers. Zones 2b, 3a: Sow wildflower seeds for spring color. Try blue flax (Linum perenne), purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), and Rocky Mountain penstemon (P. strictus) or pink P. palmeri. Or try a seed mix like Mogollon Rim. All are available from Wild Seed (602/276-3536).

Woody shrubs. Zones 11-13: Good candidates include Arizona rosewood (Vauquelinia californica), desert hackberry (Celtis pallida), hop bush (Dodonaea viscosa), jojoba, plumbago (P. scandens), and Texas mountain laurel (Sophora secundiflora).

Yuccas. Zones 11-13: Late in the month, plant yuccas so they'll have some time to get established before hot weather arrives. For small gardens, try Yucca pallida or twisted leaf yucca (Y. rupicola). If there's more space, plant beaked yucca (Y. rostrata) or blue yucca (Y. rigida).

MAINTENANCE

Fertilize. Zones 10-13: For rapid spring growth and increased flower and fruit development, feed citrus with a high-nitrogen fertilizer. Give grapes, other deciduous fruits, and roses a complete formula (such as 12-12-12). Water before and immediately after you fertilize to wash the nutrients down to the roots.

Learn about low-water landscaping. On February 24 and 25, the Xeriscape Council of New Mexico sponsors the 10th Xeriscape Conference at the Albuquerque Convention Center (401 Second St. N.W., Albuquerque). Registrants attending the conference learn about arid landscape design, new low-water plants, and more. On Saturday, February 26, a trade fair, exhibitions, and seminars are free and open to the public (8-4; www.xeriscapenm.com or 505/468-1021).