How Does Your Garden Grow?

Louise Grabell

February is a sure sign of spring! That’s right…the gardening season is about four weeks away, so sharpen your tools and start preparing for the next growing season. The last frost date is around March 20, so get those tomato seedlings going as soon as possible. Valentine’s Day is a good day to fertilize your citrus trees. If you have citrus food on hand, feel free to apply anytime soon especially when rain is in the forecast. I always like to let Mother Nature do the work for me and carry applied fertilizer down to the roots when it rains. You can start to consider pruning trees and shrubs at this time, but don’t touch your citrus trees as they are getting ready to bloom.

Lately, I have been doing some research in the area of IPM which means Integrated Pest Management and I want to share some information with you. IPM stresses the management of pests without the use of chemicals whenever possible. There are many natural, organic ways to control garden pests [insects] that actually add to your joy of gardening. Many birds are nature’s insect collectors. I love to listen to and watch the birds around my yard and have hummingbird feeders and a tube feeder for seeds. I use “clean” seeds as they are pre-shelled and leave no mess. But the best feeder I have is shaped like a donut and it holds peanuts, a favorite food of cardinals. Like clockwork, the cardinals appear late in the afternoon at this peanut feeder, chirping away to announce the goodies to others waiting in the trees. I have two mating pairs of cardinals, that I know of, that live around my estate. Cardinals mate for life…like some of us! LOL! I think we all would agree that cardinals are the most striking year-round birds we have here in the high desert.

I am not talking to you about cardinals because they are gorgeous birds, but because they help get rid of garden pests. Cardinals eat insects that destroy plants and present a nuisance to people. Besides peanuts, cardinals eat insects and caterpillars. So why not attract some cardinals to your garden? They enjoy shrubs with berries, so hawthorn and pyracantha might be suggested plantings. If your neighbor’s yard is walled in with pyracantha, then not to worry, there’s enough berries to keep your cardinals happy. Cardinals like to forage on the ground and then have a good place to hide, so leafy shrubbery will attract them. They eat spiders, ants, dragonflies and snails. Encouraging cardinals to visit your yard with a birdbath or backyard feeder is beneficial not only to the birds, but to us humans as well.

Master Gardeners invite you to visit their website,, for all up-to-date information and events for your community. Garden questions? You can reach our very own Garden Helpline by calling Pat at 407-6459.

Remember, nothing brings more tranquility to the heart than a beautiful garden.