New England

April, 2006
Regional Report

Plant Peas

Once the soil reaches 45 degrees and is dried out enough to dig in, it's time to plant peas. Choose a location in full sun and orient the rows north-south to take full advantage of the sunlight. Turn over the soil with a garden fork, or rototill if it's a new bed. Soak the seeds for a few hours or overnight (no longer or they may rot), and dust the seeds with an inoculant of nitrogen-fixing bacteria to help the roots take in more nitrogen. Set up your trellis first, then plant the seeds 1 to 2 inches deep. Cultivate very shallowly because the roots grow close to the surface; better yet, pull the weeds by hand so you don't accidentally cut off a plant.

Prune Roses

Now that you can see which canes have blackened and died, you can cut them back to green wood. Make slanted cuts about 1/4 inch above an outward-facing bud. Also remove any crossing and spindly canes. If any of last-year's leaves are still clinging to the branches, pull them off and discard them in the trash in case they contain disease spores.

Divide Perennials

Now is a good time to dig and divide late-blooming perennials, such as asters and daylilies. If left undivided, the plants become unproductive and overcrowded. Dig up the clump, and use a sharp spade to create pie-shaped wedges. Replant these divisions in a full-sun location in well-drained soil, and water often to keep soil moderately moist.

Test Soil

It's a good idea to test your soil every few years to determine its nutrient status and pH (acidity/alkalinity). Your state Cooperative Extension Service can provide a reasonably priced test, and along with the results you'll get recommendations for improving the soil. At the very least test the pH, which you can do yourself with an easy-to-use home kit. You can find them at garden centers. The proper soil pH is especially important for plant health.

Choose the Right Rake for the Job

Raking the leaves out of flower beds requires a gentle touch, so a narrow, flexible-tine fan rake is the best for the job. Use a wide version for vegetable beds or larger areas that are free of plants. For raking leaves off the lawn, a plastic leaf rake has a springy action. For raking dead grass and thatch from the lawn, use a rigid-tine rake, such as a specially made thatch rake. For raking up stones and sticks in the soil and preparing new beds, use a rigid-tine metal garden rake.

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