New England

April, 2005
Regional Report

Save on Soil in Large Planters

When planting large containers for the deck or patio, save on soil by creating a false bottom. Most of the plants you\'ll use don\'t need more than about a foot of soil depth for their roots, so put some foam packing peanuts in the very bottom, then cover with landscape fabric or a piece of cardboard cut to fit to keep the soil from sifting around the peanuts. Or use small plastic pots to take up some space before filling the planter with soil.

Spread Corn Gluten Meal

To control annual weeds in the lawn, spread corn gluten meal with your lawn spreader. It's a safe, organic option for preventing the germination of weeds, and it provides a small dose of nitrogen fertilizer. Don't use it in any areas you're trying to reseed or in the vegetable garden where you'll be planting seeds.

Start Dahlias Indoors

Get flowers sooner by potting up dahlia tubers and growing them indoors until it's warm enough to plant them outside. Pinch the growing tips when they get 6 inches tall to keep the growth short and stocky for easier transplanting into the garden.

Sow Lettuce

To get a head-start on fresh greens, sow seeds in a large, shallow container. Keep the container outside during the day and bring it in at night if the temperatures dip below freezing, or protect it in a cold frame.

Carefully Cut Back Woody Perennials

Woody perennials differ in the way they should be cut back in spring. If butterfly bush has died to the ground, cut the dead stems to the ground. Otherwise just shorten them by about one third. Cut back Russian sage, rue, and artemisias to about 8 to 12 inches from the ground. Don't prune lavender until new growth appears and then just shorten the stems by about one-third. Heather should be lightly pruned to remove the old flowers and the tips of the shoots, but don't cut back to brown wood, stay in the green.

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