Garden Basics: Spring!

Spring Equinox, the first day of spring, arrives Friday, March 20th. Spring in the high desert signals wildflowers, possible rains, always wind, and of course, Spring Plant Sales! Here are a few tips to make your shopping foray enjoyable.

RESEARCH: Knowing what plants you are looking for before you enter the nursery will enhance the success of your trip. Browse through catalogs, books, and magazines and make a list of plants that interest you. Be sure to consider heat and cold tolerance, height and width restrictions, what your soil structure is, fragrance or color, and what you want the plant to do-act as a windbreak, create shade, prevent soil erosion, wildlife value, etc. Match plants to the site and conditions to avoid heart aches later on.

BE PREPARED: I have found it useless to go shopping, bring back a truckload of plants, and not be prepared to plant them. If you already know where you want to plant something, begin digging the hole(s) now. It's also a good time to inspect, repair, or install drip irrigation. In the vegetable garden rake out all old mulch to remove overwintering pests/diseases and lay down fresh mulch. And if you aren't currently using mulches in the ornamental garden, spring is an excellent time to accomplish this chore before the heat of summer sets in and fries not only you but your plants.

BUY HEALTHY PLANTS: Inspect plants for any pests or diseases; check the rootball, it should not be rootbound; and avoid plants that are lanky or leggy. Plants should generally have compact, green growth. Now all that said, I need to stress that some native plants look really funky in containers. It will be alive, sometimes small, sparse, and have a small amount of new growth. Buy it! Plant it! Give it a year and it will be beautiful! Look for annuals perennials in bud, not in full bloom. Buy plants in bloom only if you are looking for a specific color.

When looking at trees check the crotches, they should be well spaced and balanced looking. Select for single or multi-trunk and don't be put off by a tree that has branches starting very low on the trunk. This is good-studies show that it helps stimulate growth. It can be thinned up slowly over a period of pruning seasons.

THE PLANT SALES! Not only will you find plants, some nurseries hold seminars and demonstrations, have speakers and exhibits, and refreshments. Happy Spring!

Tohono Chul Park, Tucson, March 7 & 8, (520) 742-6455

Boyce Thompson SW Arboretum, Superior, March 20 - April 5, (520) 689-2723

Tucson Botanical Gardens, Tucson, March 21 & 22, (520) 326-9686

Desert Survivors, Tucson, March 28 & 29, (520) 791-9309

Diamond JK Nursery, Sonoita, April 4 & 5, (520)455-9262

Zamp Country Nursery, Douglas, April 4 & 5, (520)364-3809

Cheri Melton
March, 1998