New England

February, 2004
Regional Report

Replant Frost-heaved Bulbs and Perennials

Fluctuating winter temperatures and alternating freeze/thaw cycles in early spring can heave perennials and bulbs out of the ground. If this happens, drying winds and extreme temperatures may damage exposed roots. Keep an eye out for frost-heaved plants and bulbs, and immediately replant them, or at least mound up soil around exposed roots. To minimize frost heaving next year, cover beds with a lightweight mulch or evergreen boughs in late fall after the ground has frozen.

Control Spider Mites

Warm, dry indoor air in winter can lead to problems with spider mites on houseplants. The mites themselves are barely visible to the eye, so look for the symptoms they cause -- stippling on leaves and fine webbing on new growth. Spray the plants with insecticidal soap two to three times a week to kill the mites, making sure to spray the undersides of the leaves as well as the tops.

Give Fragrant Bouquets

Although roses are considered the classic for a Valentine's Day bouquet, many long-stemmed roses have little or no fragrance. Instead of roses, consider fragrant flowers, such as freesias, tuberose, or Oriental lilies (especially white 'Casablanca' or pink 'Stargazer'). These long-lasting flowers are not only beautiful, they will also perfume the room with their heady fragrance.

Order Grapes

Now is the time to order bare-root grape plants. Be sure to check your USDA hardiness zone before choosing varieties. In general, the wine-making Vinifera types, such as Chardonnay, are less winter hardy than the fresh-eating grapes, such as Concord, and should be planted only in areas with 170 frost-free days. For fresh-eating grapes, the seedless varieties, such as Reliance, tend to be less hardy than the seeded varieties, such as Valiant.

Start Onions

Long-season alliums, such as leeks and onions, should be started from seed now. Unlike the quickly growing broccoli and tomatoes, onions need 10 to 12 weeks of growth indoors before they go in the garden. Sprinkle the seed on top of seed-starting mix, keep it moist, and as soon as the seedlings emerge, place the flats under grow lights so they grow strong.

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