Pacific Northwest

February, 2005
Regional Report

Sprouting Unusual Produce

If you're an avid gardener, the long winter months when you can't muck around in the garden can drive you batty. I've found some interesting diversions in the Oriental produce section of my local grocery store. I purchased an unusual type of sweet potato that produced a lovely vine (ordinary sweet potatoes in the regular produce section are treated with a growth inhibitor and won't sprout well). I also planted three tuberous items that the produce manager called "chicarones." They put out large, caladium-shaped green leaves. I don't know if they will flower, but the greenery they produce is quite attractive. I rooted both the sweet potato and the chicarones in a pot of soil placed in a bright windowsill. You also might try sprouting lotus root, ginger, and taro. Not only do these new plants help beat the winter blues, they're also inexpensive additions to any indoor plant collection.

Prepare New Beds

When the soil is dry enough to work, till to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. Spread a 3-inch-thick layer of compost or well-rotted manure over the bed and dig it in, then rake the bed smooth. The bed will be ready to plant once the weather warms.

Divide Perennials

It's time to divide summer- and fall-flowering perennials, such as chrysanthemums and Shasta daisies, to promote better bloom later this year. Wait until autumn to divide spring-flowering perennials, such as candytuft, bleeding heart, and creeping phlox.

Protect Fruit Trees

Spray apple, cherry, peach, and pear trees with lime-sulfur or fixed copper to prevent diseases this spring. Apply dormant oil sprays now to control scale insects on the bark. Apply all sprays on a calm, dry day when temperatures are above 40 degrees F and rain is not predicted for 24 hours.

Plant Asparagus

Plant bare-root plants of asparagus, horseradish, and rhubarb this month. Asparagus crowns are best planted in a 1-foot-deep trench that's filled in as the plant grows. Plant in a full-sun location in soil amended with compost. Keep the area well watered this summer and weed free for best growth.

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