Middle South

February, 2007
Regional Report

Force Flowering Branches

When pruning spring-flowering trees and shrubs, such as forsythia, apple, dogwood, and cherry, save the pruned branches to be forced indoors for an early spring flower show. Choose branches that are one to two years old and cut pieces 1 to 2 feet long. Place them in warm water indoors. In a few weeks you should have beautiful flowers.

Maintain Bird Feeders

It's midwinter and birds have been visiting your feeder for months. However, unless you've been cleaning your feeder regularly, it could be making some of these wild birds sick. To minimize the spread of disease, disinfect the feeder monthly with a solution of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water. Clean droppings off the perching area and make sure your bird food isn't moldy.

Don't Overdo It

It's easy to get carried away starting seeds, but try to be realistic. It's wise to start a few extra plants, but do you really need -- or have room for -- 50 tomato plants in your garden? Remember, too, that tiny seedlings will need to be transplanted into larger containers, and you'll need to have a warm and well-lit spot for these until spring arrives.

Water Fig Tree Carefully

If your indoor fig tree (ficus) is starting to drop leaves, it may be due to your watering schedule. Don't overwater, and don't let the tree stand in a saucer of water for an extended length of time or its roots may be damaged. On the other hand, don't let soil dry out completely either. Try to keep the soil evenly moist, watering throroughly and then allowing the excess water to drain. Wait until the soil dries out slightly before watering again.

Provide Supplemental Light for Houseplants

If your houseplants are growing tall and leggy, they probably need some supplemental light. Use fluorescent lights to help compensate for short days. Place the lights 4 to 6 inches above the tops of the plants, and keep them on for about 16 hours a day.

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