Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

Northern & Central Midwest

February, 2001
Regional Report

Prevent Damping Off

Damping off, the invisible fungus that topples seedlings at the soil line, can devastate a gardener's hopes for an early start. To prevent this fungal disease, wash all flats and pots in a mild bleach solution, sprinkle milled sphagnum moss (not peat moss) over seeds when you sow them, and don't overwater your seedlings.

Sow Annual Flowers Indoors

It's time to sow annual flower seeds such as impatiens, begonia, and geranium indoors. These seeds are very small, so mix them with sand to make it easier to sow them more evenly. Use only a sterile seed-starting mix, cover the seeds very lightly with milled sphagnum moss, and keep them covered with plastic until they germinate.

Force Branches Indoors

Cut stems of forsythia, cherry, flowering quince, and pussy willow now to force these flowers into bloom indoors. Place 1-foot-long branches in fresh water in a well-lit room and change the water frequently.

Prune Damaged Branches

Branches of trees and shrubs damaged by winter's ice or snow are best pruned as soon as they thaw out. Don't prune when the temperatures are bitter cold because it will be hard to work and the branches will be brittle. Make clean cuts where possible and prune to shape the overall look of the plant.

Building Boxes

Cold February days are a great time to build or repair trellises, window boxes, and planter boxes. Use a rot-resistant wood such as cedar or redwood, galvanized or brass hardware to prevent corrosion, and nontoxic, VOC-free stain to further preserve the wood. Make a number of holes in the bottom for water drainage and line the bottom with fine-mesh hardware cloth to keep soil from rushing out the holes.


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