New England

January, 2013
Regional Report

Web Finds

Seed Viability Chart
It's not uncommon to have seeds left over at the end of a gardening season. But are they still worth planting the next year? Many kinds of seeds will retain their viability for at least year or two, even under less than perfect storage conditions. High Mowing Organic Seeds Seed Viability Chart lists vegetable seed longevity under proper storage conditions (below 50 degrees F, dark, dry) for everything from artichokes to winter squash. The ones with the shortest storage life are onions and leeks; it's best to start with fresh seeds for these crops every year.

Clever Gardening Technique

Air Layering
I have a croton growing on my windowsill that has gotten almost 3 feet tall. It's dropped some of its lower leaves and is starting to look rather rangy and awkward. Time to air layer! This easy technique is a great way to rescue large, overgrown, "bare-kneed" houseplants like croton, rubber plant, and diffenbachia. Wait until the lengthening days of late winter prod the plant into active growth. Then begin by soaking some sphagnum moss for an hour or two until it's thoroughly wet. Next take a sharp knife and about a foot down from the tip of the stem, make a horizontal cut through the bark all the way around the stem, down to its woody core. Make a similar cut about one-half inch farther down, then make a vertical cut between the two and scrape away the ring of bark between the two cuts. Dust the cut surface with rooting hormone powder. Squeeze out a handful of the wet moss until it is just damp, then pack the moss in a ball around the cut area. Cover the ball of moss with some plastic cling wrap, securing it to the stem with waterproof electrician's tape at each end. Seal the side seam of the wrap with tape as well. If you've wrapped and sealed it well, the moss will stay damp while roots form, a process that usually takes 8-10 weeks. (You can peel open the wrap and add a little more water if the moss begins to get dry.) When you see a mass of roots poking out through the moss, cut off the stem just below the ball of moss, unwrap it, and plant it in a pot just a few inches larger than the root ball. Place the plant in a bright spot out of direct sun and keep the potting mix damp but not soggy until your new plant becomes established.

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