New England

April, 2007
Regional Report

Preventing Damping Off

Damping off fungus is mainly a problem with seeds started indoors, but the good news is you can more easily control the environment indoors to deter the disease. Start with sterile pots and flats (soak them in water with one part bleach to nine parts water). Use sterile seed-starting mix. Cover the soil surface with a thin layer of sand or perlite after sowing. Don't overwater, and set up a small fan, if needed, to provide good air circulation.

Get Mowers and Tillers Serviced

Avoid the waiting line at the repair shop and take in machines that need sharpening and cleaning, such as mowers, tillers, and chain saws. Even one pass with a mower with dull blades can damage the young grass shoots.

Clean Digging Tools

Dig out your shovels and trowels and inspect them for rust and dull edges. Remove any nicks and sharpen the front of the blade with a coarse flat file. This is relatively easy to do by holding the front end of the file at one end of the blade and pushing the file forward as you move it along the width of the blade from one end to the other. Then with fine-grit sandpaper remove any burrs on the back of the blade that sometimes show up after sharpening. If you can't get to your tools yet, time for spring cleaning in the shed or garage.

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.

Save Pruned Branches

Pruned and broken branches can make good supports for tall flowers stalks of delphiniums and other flowers. If you have enough to make a row, you can weave jute twine between them to make a trellis for peas or sweet peas (think tall wattle fencing).

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