March Gardening Task In The Southwest

Many areas of the Southwest enjoyed a warm winter, but as a result the growing season has been advanced. There is a lot to be done, and now is the time to start, if you want to finish in time.

Complete landscape planning. Best selections of azaleas, camellias, rhododendrons, yews and other choice shrubs and trees are to be had now. Soil is workable so you can ready your lawns and flower beds, fruit and vegetable gardens.

Plant roses, fruit trees, deciduous shade and flowering trees right away, trimming back the tops to insure strong new growth. Subtropical fruits and tropical flowering and foliage plants can also be set out safely.

Delayed foliation, a condition brought on by the warm winter and characterized by scattered blooms, sparse foliage and die-back of twigs and branches, may appear on deciduous trees that required winter chilling to induce dormancy. Prune heavily. Do not prune subtropical trees and shrubs damaged by late frost until you can determine the extent of injury. Then cut back to sound wood.

Divide dahlias, using a sharp, heavy knife to cut the clumps. There must be an eye on each tuber. Place tubers in moist sand or peatmoss until sprouts show. (Except in desert and Arizona regions where the soil is already warm. Here, if planted in the garden, they may rot.)

Heavily fed cannas will grow into crowded clumps with poor foliage and small flowers unless divided every few years. Replant divisions in rich soil. Try some of the new, larger-flowered varieties in pastel shades of pink, salmon, yellow and cream. They can be grown in large pots or tubs for tropical effects on the patio. Protect new shoots by spreading metaldehyde bait for slugs and snails, spraying for aphids.

Propagate mums by dividing or cutting. Place cuttings in clean sand, vermiculite or sponge rock until they are rooted, then pot or place them in the garden.

Fuchsias should be cut back and fed, or repotted in new soil mixture. Train hanging basket and upright forms as they grow, by pinching to induce branching before new growth gets too long. Continue to feed. Upright and trailing varieties, with the exception of the heaviest growers, can be trained along a shady wall. Uprights should be staked.

Spray most plants, especially roses and camellias, to kill aphids. Slugs and snails are also active. Scatter bait around newly planted annuals and vegetables, among ivy, iris and other plantings where they breed.

Fertilize all of your established plants regularly from now on.

Poinsettias, set out now, will bloom by Christmas. Prune to train as low bushes or taller tree-like specimens. Cut back older plants, leaving 2 or 3 branches on last season’s growth. Induce additional branching by pruning new growth as it develops. Each branch will then produce a blossom.

Bird of paradise, especially heavy feeders, make most of their growth from now through summer, when they develop flower shoots for fall and winter blooms.

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