New England

March, 2006
Regional Report

Cut Back Ornamental Grasses

Remove the old stalks from ornamental grasses before new growth begins or you'll cut off new growth when you prune. For large plants, you may need to use hedge trimmers or a pruning saw. Cut to several inches above the crown. It helps to tie the stalks together before you cut.

Remove Suckers

Suckers that sprout from the base of crab apple trees and other fruiting trees will rob the trees of energy needed to form fruit, so don't let them grow unchecked. Pull them off if possible because this reduces their regrowth more than cutting them, but use whatever method you need to.

Deter Dogs and Cats

If you have pets or neighbor cats and dogs that like to visit your gardens, take steps now to deter them. There are products you can sprinkle around the beds that safely repel animals, low fences that you can set up around beds, and gadgets such as pointed plastic spikes you can lay in popular digging spots. It's easier to deter bad habits than to break them.

Prune Butterfly Bushes

Since butterfly bushes bloom on new growth, the best time to prune is early spring before new growth begins. Cut off the old stalks to within a few inches of the ground with pruners, loppers, or a pruning saw -- whatever is needed. If you want a more compact plant, also pinch off the tips of the branches in early May. If you wait too long, you'll remove flower buds.

Watch for New Growth on Strawberries

Check strawberry plants twice a week for signs of new growth. As soon as you see sprouts, remove the hay or straw mulch and spread it in the rows to help control weeds. A topdressing of an inch or two of compost will give plants a boost.

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