Upper South

March, 2005
Regional Report

Enhancing Seed Germination

Starting your own transplants from seed ensures that you get the varieties you want. Be sure to use a soilless mix specifically designed for starting seeds; it must be sterile and fine textured. Even with a greenhouse, fluorescent light units are a boon to growth; they are almost essential if growing transplants indoors. A heat mat or cable also encourages speedy germination, as do clear plastic covers over the plant trays.

Caring for Houseplants

As the days lengthen, houseplants begin to send out new growth. Begin fertilizing regularly using a houseplant fertilizer and following the manufacturer\'s recommendations. Repot houseplants as needed, using a light, porous soilless potting mix. To reduce watering needs, add water-absorbing crystals to the mix before you repot. Clean the leaves, check for pests, and spray with a safe pesticide, such as insecticidal soap.

Planting Trees and Shrubs

Research studies have shown that trees and shrubs planted early in the spring grow better than those planted later. Bare-root plants, especially, should be planted before they leaf out. So, plant trees and shrubs whenever the soil is dry enough to work. Don't dig in the soil when it's wet, as this will damage the soil structure. To check, pick up a handful of soil and form a ball. If it crumbles when you poke it, the soil is dry enough to work.

Tend Asparagus and Rhubarb

If not done last fall, remove old asparagus and rhubarb tops. Weed the beds, if necessary, and side-dress the plants with well-rotted manure and a balanced fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, at the rate of 2-1/2 pounds per 100 square feet. This is also a good time to plant or transplant asparagus and rhubarb. 'Jersey Giant' is a very productive asparagus variety; also consider one of the red-stalked types. 'Valentine' rhubarb hardly ever produces seed stalks.

Enjoy Early Spring Bulbs

Snowdrops, crocuses, dwarf iris, and scilla are all blooming. Take the time to go out and give them some appreciation. If you've planted enough of them, pick a little bouquet to bring indoors or share with a friend. Keep notes on the blooming dates and plant more of your favorites this fall. Make plans to continually add more bulbs because masses of them are spectacular.

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