New England

March, 2004
Regional Report

Prune Back Ornamental Grasses

If you left your ornamental grasses intact last fall, you can go ahead and prune them back to a height of about 6 inches now. If you remove the old growth before new growth starts, you won't risk damaging new sprouts. Add prunings to the compost pile.

Wait to Prune

Wait to prune spring-blooming shrubs like lilac, forsythia, azalea, and rhododendron until after they bloom. Otherwise, you'll cut off the flower buds. Prune these just after blooming, because they'll form next year's flower buds during this growing season.

Spray Horticultural Oil

Spray horticultural oil on fruit trees, such as apples, plums, and cherries, to smoother any overwintering insects. Choose a calm day when temperatures are above 40 degrees F, and be sure to cover all sides of the branches. You can also apply it to evergreens to control spider mites and other insects. Carefully follow the instructions on the label for proper usage and appropriate plants.

Remove Strawberry Mulch

Check strawberry plants twice a week for signs of new growth. As soon as you see sprouts, remove the hay or straw mulch and spread it in the rows to help control weeds. A topdressing of an inch or two of compost will give plants a boost.

Set Up Cold Frame

Cold frames are handy for hardening off seedlings. You can make a simple cold frame by placing hay bales along the perimeter of a rectangle, and placing old windows or a glass storm door over the top. Purchased cold frames are convenient -- some have thermostatically controlled tops that open automatically when the temperature inside hits a designated point. Since the midday sun can heat things up quickly, this feature is especially handy if you're away for long stretches during the day.

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