Middle South

February, 2005
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 or mash the bottom few inches of the branch to increase the surface area for water absorption. Place in a water-filled vase, and you should have flowers in a few weeks.

Organize Seeds

Organize seed packets by planting time. Group seeds to be started indoors, then arrange them by when you\'ll need to plant them. For example, start with seeds that should be planted indoors eight weeks before the average last frost, followed by those to be planted six weeks before, then four weeks, etc. Do the same for seeds that will be direct sown in the garden.

Begin Fertilizing Houseplants

Now that the days are starting to get 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 their 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.

Prune Fruit Trees

Late winter is the best time to prune apple, plum, and cherry trees. Plum trees should be pruned to an open center, while apple and cherry trees grow best pruned to a modified leader (the center is more closed and tree is more upright). Any dead, diseased, or broken branches should be removed, as well as crossing branches and twiggy, nonproductive growth.

Prepare Cold Frames

Set up a cold frame and plant cold-loving greens, such as arugula and kale. The seeds will germinate in the cold soil and within four to six weeks provide the first early spring greens of the season. Sprinkle the seed throughout the cold frame and eat the thinnings as they grow.

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