New England

March, 2004
Regional Report

Force Flowering Branches

Prune branches off flowering shrubs, such as forsythia and apple, and bring them indoors to force into early bloom. Trim the branches to a reasonable size for your vase, then cut an "X" in the bottom of the branch or mash the bottom few inches to increase the surface area for water absorption. Place in a water-filled vase, and you should have flowers in a few weeks.

Trim Leeks

If you started leeks indoors, they are probably getting pretty tall by now. Trim them back to about 2 inches in height, so they don't get spindly and fall over. Like grasses, leeks grow from near the soil line rather than from the top, so you won't harm the growing point by trimming them back.

Wait for Soil to Dry Before Planting

Although it's tempting to get out and plant on the next 60-degree day, wait until the soil has dried out and warmed up somewhat. Most seeds planted in cold, wet soil won't germinate, and many of those that do germinate will succumb to rot. Also, working in wet soil compacts it and damages soil structure. Pick up a ball of soil and poke it with a finger; if it crumbles, it's dry enough to work in the garden.

Begin Fertilizing Houseplants

Now that the days are getting longer, your houseplants will be resuming vigorous growth, so begin fertilizing with a soluble fertilizer. A seaweed/fish emulsion blend is a good choice -- but look for one labeled as "no odor" to avoid the usual pungent smell. You can fertilize monthly at the label's recommended dilution rate, or fertilize every time you water using a quarter-strength mix.

Cut Pussy Willows

Now is the time of year to search swamps and wet areas for the first sign of spring -- the pussy willow. Buds are swelling with the warmer weather. Take 2-foot cuttings from the bush, trying not to deform it by taking too many cuttings in one location. Bring them indoors and place them in water in a cool room.

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