Transitioning from winter to spring in Arizona can be a bit tricky for gardeners, especially when sunny days and warm temperatures have our dormant plants “waking up” before winter is technically over.
Careful gardeners who prefer to play it safe might put off spring gardening tasks such as fertilizing, cutting back freeze-damaged foliage, and installing heat-loving plants until closer to the beginning of March.
Those of us who aren’t as patient tend to take a bit of a gamble in our gardens around this time of year. With nurseries all over town already stocking up on beautiful summer color, it’s hard to resist getting started a little early! Here are a few guidelines for making the transition into spring a little easier, whether you start early or hold off a little longer.
Get a thermometer (or two)
Tucson has many microclimates, so it’s a good idea to have a couple of thermometers in different parts of your garden to get a good feel for where your garden stands in relation to the city-wide weather reports. If you know that your area of town tends to run warmer or cooler than the weather report, then it might be easier for you to decide whether or not you need to wait.
Don’t pack away the frost cloth just yet
If you’re like me, then you probably get started on spring gardening a little too early every year. I’ve already cut back and fertilized a few things that are frost sensitive, and moved my potted plants from their protected winter locations, which won’t be a problem unless we actually get another freeze. Antsy-pants like me need to keep the frost cloth readily available just in case the weather does turn cold again. All of those frost-sensitive plants with tender new foliage will need to be protected if temperatures drop again.
Spend some extra time preparing
There’s still plenty to do in the garden if you’re anxious to get started but worried about another cold snap. Weeds are already abundant this year in response to our drenching winter rains – pull as many as you can, or at least lop off flower heads before they can make too much seed. Holes can be pre-dug for plants you plan to install this spring – fill the hole with water to make sure that it drains properly before the new plant goes in. Check irrigation lines to make sure that there are no leaks and no extra emitters need to be added. Before you know it, all chances of frost will be past, and you can get started with spring gardening without having to break out the frost cloth.