Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

New England

April, 2008
Regional Report

Rooting Pussy Willow Branches

If you like pussy willows, there's an inexpensive way to grow your own. Buy some pussy willow branches at the florist or grocery and place them in a tall vase of water. The newest growth at the ends of the branches puts out roots more readily so cut off the bottom portions of the branches and stick the upper portions in the water until rooted. Then transplant them outside wherever you would welcome their vigorous presence. They will grow to 20 feet without pruning.

Warming Up the Soil

To warm up the soil in a bed so you can plant earlier, plastic is your best bet. Remove any weeds you can see sprouting, then cover the bed with a sheet of plastic and weight it down on the sides. You might guess that black plastic would absorb more heat than clear plastic and raise the temperature higher, but actually clear plastic is the winner. Plus, if you leave it on long enough, it will first encourage weed growth and then cook the weeds.

Remove Leaves Around Roses

Diseases can overwinter in debris around roses so a good spring cleaning can help mitigate any damage this year. If any leaves remain hanging on the canes from last summer, remove them and dispose of them just in case they harbor some fungal spores. Remove old mulch and make way for a new layer. Finished compost makes a good mulch.

Promoting Sturdier Transplants

If leggy, weak seedlings are a problem, there are several things you can try. Make sure the supplemental lights are a couple of inches above the plants. If the lights are more than two years old, they may need to be replaced because they lose intensity over time. Lower the temperature so the seedlings grow more slowly. Set up a small fan nearby so the air slightly moves the seedlings, which will encourage stronger stems. In the absence of a fan you can achieve the same results by lightly brushing your hand over the tops of your seedlings every day.

Plant Rhubarb

Don't spend another year without rhubarb for fresh pies and crisps. It's so easy to grow. Amend the soil several inches deep with compost and set the bare-root plants so the buds are 2 inches below ground level. Water and refrain from cutting stalks the first year to allow the plant to become established.


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