Middle South

January, 2008
Regional Report

Force Flowering Branches

Cut forsythia and apple branches for forcing indoors. Look for branches with lots of nice fat buds, taking care to prune to maintain the shape of the tree or shrub. Place the branches in a vase filled with water; the buds should open in a week or two.

Wait to Prune Spring-Flowering Shrubs

Wait to prune spring-blooming shrubs like lilac, forsythia, azalea, and rhododendron until after they bloom. Otherwise, you'll cut off the flower buds. Prune these just after blooming because they'll form next year's flower buds during the summer growing season.

Inspect Trees and Shrubs for Winter Damage

Inspect trees and shrubs for broken limbs, and prune damaged branches back to unaffected wood. In general, it's a good idea to cut branches back to a branch or bud that's facing outward. Hire a professional to handle big jobs because they will have the proper safety equipment.

Have Soil Tested

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. The proper soil pH is especially important for plant health.

Add Trellises

Consider "growing up" this season -- buy or build some trellises. Frame your front door with a flower-laden arbor to greet visitors. Create an arch of climbing roses; use annual vines, such as morning glory, to provide abundant flowers from midsummer until frost. While you're at it, add a trellis to the vegetable garden for pole beans and cucumbers.

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