Pacific Northwest

February, 2006
Regional Report

Check Houseplants for Mites

Spider mites can become quite a problem on houseplants during the winter months. These tiny insects are very hard to see, often going undetected until their population explodes and you begin to see their webs on the plants. To control them, spray insecticidal soap two to three times a week and mist plants with water from time to time.

Start Onion Seeds

Start onions indoors from seed now and set them in a sunny spot. Sow the seeds 1/4 inch deep and cover them lightly with vermiculite or sand. Keep the soil temperature at about 70 degrees F. Once the seeds germinate, place the trays under grow lights, thin seedlings to 1 to 2 inches apart, and keep the plants watered and fed. Keep the plants trimmed to 3 inches tall and set them out in the garden in late March.

Add Wood Ashes

Adding wood ashes to your garden can help reduce soil acidity, but it's always a good idea to test your soil first so you'll know how much to apply. Wood ashes not only add potassium to the soil, they also raise the pH. Don't apply ashes to your garden if your soil pH is already 7.0 or more. In general, use 1/2 to 1 pound of wood ash per year to mulch around shrubs and roses, 10 to 15 pounds per 1,000 square feet spread on the lawn, and 10 to 30 pounds per 1,000 square feet turned into vegetable and flower gardens.

Take Geranium Cuttings

If you're overwintering your geraniums indoors, they're probably getting tall and leggy due to the reduced light. Now is a good time to cut them back to about a foot tall. Save a few 4- to 6-inch pieces to root by dipping the cut ends in rooting hormone and then placing them in a pot filled with peat moss and sand. Keep the pots out of direct light while the cuttings take root, which should be in a few weeks. When new growth appears, you'll know your cuttings have rooted.

Keep Spring Bulbs Mulched

Hardy spring bulbs march to their own music, sending up shoots when weather seems much too cold. I always worry about 3-inch daffodil shoots or blooming snowdrops and crocuses when a cold snap hits, but if their roots are properly mulched, they are remarkably resistant to cold temperatures. When they're well mulched, these plants stop their growth during cold spells and revive during warmth. If a serious freeze is predicted, place 2 to 3 inches of organic mulch around any exposed shoots.

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