Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

New England

February, 2006
Regional Report

Force Flowering Branches

When pruning spring-flowering trees and shrubs, such as forsythia, apple, dogwood, and cherry, save the pruned branches and force them indoors for an early spring flower show. Take 1- to 2-foot-long, one- to two-year-old branches and place them in warm water indoors in a cool location. Add a few drops of bleach to the water to prevent rotting of the stems. In a few weeks you should have beautiful flowers.

Prune Trees and Shrubs

With the mild winter we've had, spring may be on the early side, so make plans to prune trees and shrubs in the next few weeks. Gather pruners and sharpen them if necessary. Remove any broken, dead, or diseased branches first to see how their absence affects the shape of the plant. Then open up the center of the plant by removing any branches that head into the center of the crown. Remove spindly growth and any branches that rub against others. You will need a step ladder to reach into even small trees, and a pole pruner to reach those above your head. Leave the removal of large, high limbs to a professional.

Check Grow Lights

If you start seeds under grow lights or fluorescent shop lights indoors, check the tubes for signs of age. Tubes that have been used for two to three seasons probably have lost much of their intensity even though they look fine. Dark rings on the ends of the tubes are a sign they need to be replaced.

Remove Forced Bulbs From Cold Storage

If you've placed some potted spring-flowering bulbs in cold storage for a winter rest, you can remove them when they've had 12 to 14 weeks of cold treatment. Bring the chilled pots into a 50- to 65-degree F room with bright, indirect light for about two weeks. The warmer the temperature, the shorter the flowering stems and the faster the bulbs will flower. When the bulb shoots are 2 inches tall, move the pots to a sunny 68-degree F location for flowering. The cooler the temperatures (60 degrees F is ideal at night), the longer the flowers will last.

Plan for New Gardens

If your plans call for making a new garden this spring, it's not too soon to spread some soil-building materials. If you already have a pile of compost or decayed leaves, spread them on top of the ground where your new bed will be. With the mild winter, your compost pile may not be frozen solid and you may be able to dig beneath the frozen crust. If you can use this material to keep the grass or weeds in your new garden spot from growing, you'll have an easier time preparing the bed.


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