Mid-Atlantic

March, 2006
Regional Report

Start Spring Indoors

To get a head start on spring color, clip a few branches from forsythia, dogwood, and crab apple to bring indoors. Reclip the branch stems to make clean cuts, then put them in a vase of water. The branches will absorb the water, so check and refill as needed. In a few days, the flower buds that set last year will open in the indoor warmth.

Prepare for Spring Seeding

Sort through seed flats, keeping those that are in good shape and recycling those that are worse for wear. Disinfect used flats, capillary matting, and pots with a 10 percent chlorine bleach/90 percent water solution. Make sure the heating mat and the grow lights work.

Stock Up on Supplies

Be sure to use high quality, sterile, soilless mix for seed starting indoors -- sphagnum or peat moss, vermiculite, and/or perlite or sharp sand. Garden soil and bagged topsoil are too heavy and dense for successfully starting seeds indoors. They're also teaming with microbes, some of which could harm fragile seedlings.

Head Off Fungi

Have finely milled sphagnum moss on hand. After planting seeds in the sterile soilless mix, sprinkle milled sphagnum so it covers the top. This has antibiotic properties that discourage the microbes that cause damping off disease. This is the condition where young green seedlings all of a sudden wilt and fatally bend at soil level.

Wear Gloves and Wash Hands

For safety sake, wear protective gloves when gardening, even when planting seeds. A disease-causing fungus, Sporothrix schenckii, has been found in sphagnum moss, on thorny plants, and in hay bales. This can cause Sporotrichosis, a slow-to-heal fungal infection that starts on the skin but can spread to other body parts. So wash hands and arms thoroughly after handling sphagnum. Be especially careful to avoid direct contact if you have any skin breaks on hands or arms.

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Special Report - Garden to Table

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