Northern & Central Midwest

January, 2007
Regional Report

Recycle Holiday Branches

Cut Christmas tree branches into pieces to use as mulch for garden and perennial beds. The light branches allow moisture to reach the soil but also insulate the roots and crowns of plants from the freeze-thaw cycle of winter. Or use the whole tree in the backyard to hold birdseed and suet ornaments for winter birds.

Start Seeds for Early-Spring Annuals

Follow directions on individual packets as to which types of seeds require bottom heat, light, or darkness in order to germinate. Some seeds may require a short period of chilling before being sown. Cool-season annuals like larkspur, snapdragons, English daisies, ranunculus, monkey flowers, pansies, annual poppies, and forget-me-nots require sowing 14 weeks ahead of planting outdoors.

Keep Florist Azaleas Blooming

Provide flowering azaleas with bright light and even moisture, and remove spent blossoms immediately. Move out to a partially shaded spot in the garden once all danger of frost has passed in spring. Then fertilize twice a month with a dilute fertilizer. Bring the plant back indoors before fall frost arrives.

Take Care of Amaryllis Bulbs

Amaryllis bulbs will begin sending up leaves. Allow the flower stalk to wither before removing it. Place pot on a bright windowsill and continue normal watering. After May 15, take the potted bulb outside to a spot in the garden where it will receive morning sun. Fertilize every 10 to 14 days.

Force Flowering Branches

Later this month, prune flowering branches for indoor forcing. Use proper pruning techniques, taking care not to interfere with the natural shape of the tree or shrub. Cut branches at least 1 foot long when the temperature is above freezing. Soak overnight in a bathtub of tepid water. Recut the stem ends and arrange in a vase. Keep at about 60 degrees F.

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