Upper South

February, 2004
Regional Report

Fertilize Hollies

Evergreen holly trees respond best to organic fertilizers applied every three years while the ground is frozen. Scatter the fertilizer from about 1 foot out from the trunk to 1-1/2 feet beyond the limb spread. Follow manufacturer's recommendations for the rate. A mulch of composted cow manure or pine needles is also beneficial for hollies.

Watch Out for Winter Burn

Evergreens can "winter burn" when the air temperature warms but the ground is still frozen, making groundwater unavailable to plants. The plant transpires, losing water that cannot be replaced by the roots. Spray with an antidessicant to slow down transpiration. Prize shrubs can also be protected with burlap. Water plants whenever the ground thaws unless it rains.

Control Scale

Euonymus and other broadleaf evergreens are particularly susceptible to scale insects, with their small, round, hard shells. To control, apply a dormant oil spray up to the middle of March. The temperature must not be under 40 degrees F or over 70 degrees F for a 24-hour period after application. Do not use dormant sprays on hard maple, dogwood, or beech trees.

Get Birdhouses Ready

Although birds haven't yet begun to nest, it won't be long. Be prepared by buying, building, and cleaning birdhouses. To attract a wide variety of small birds, such as wrens, chickadees, and nuthatches, the entrance hole should be 1-1/4 inches in diameter. Bluebirds need an opening 1-1/2 inches across. A roof of hardware cloth will discourage house sparrows. Robins prefer nesting shelves.

Propagate Geraniums

Leggy, overwintering geraniums are much improved for garden planting by taking stem cuttings. Cut about 3 inches from the tips of shoots. Ideally, there will be five leaf nodes. Strip off the leaves from the lower half of the stems. Let them dry for eight hours. Place cuttings in clean pots filled with equal parts perlite and vermiculite. Keep evenly watered and mist foliage occasionally. Keep at cool temperatures -- about 60 to 65 degrees F.

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