Upper South

February, 2008
Regional Report

Take Advantage of Good Weather

Granted, anyone with a heated garage or garden shed can work on garden-related tasks, such as washing pots, cleaning tools, and so forth, no matter what the weather. For those of us who are more "weather-dependent," utilize those warm days that are interspersed between winter storms to prune, trim, clean, organize, or whatever else that could be done now, thereby lessening the work overload when spring arrives.

Grow the Herb of the Year

The International Herb Association has designated calendula, more commonly known as pot marigold, as the 2008 Herb of the Year. Calendula is an herb with culinary, medicinal, and ornamental uses. The orange, yellow, gold, or cream petals are used to flavor rice, while the leaves are a good potpourri or sachet ingredient, lending a fruity aroma. Concoctions from the flowers and leaves are used as an external treatment for burns, wounds, and sores. A hardy annual, calendula grows and blooms best in the cooler weather of spring and fall.

Wash Pots

To avoid sending pots to the landfill and lacking a recycling opportunity, it makes sense to reuse pots as much as possible. Beforehand, however, they should be washed in order to minimize spreading diseases or other pests. Fill a tub or large bucket with nine parts water to one part bleach. Clean each pot by scrubbing with a stiff brush to remove all soil and deposits. For terra cotta pots, soak them in water for 24 hours prior to the washing. After pots are washed, rinse thoroughly in clean water. Air dry pots in the sun.

Improve Garden Record-Keeping

Keeping records of what is growing or was grown in your garden is invaluable in making assessments and plans for the future. Little plastic labels get lost and seed packets get thrown away so it pays to keep some type of journal of what, when, and where. Although garden journal computer software is available, don't overlook the efficiencies of a three-ring notebook. Photocopy from a book or catalog or print from the Web a description of each plant and keep in the notebook. Make notes on the page as to when it was planted, how it grew, when it bloomed, and so forth. Invest in a label machine that uses outdoor tape to make more permanent plant labels.

Bring Branches Into Bloom Indoors

Branches of spring-blooming shrubs and trees, most notably forsythia, witch hazel, pussy willow, flowering quince, hawthorn, spirea, and crab apple, can be cut and brought indoors to force into bloom for bouquets. After cutting the branches, split or crush the stem bottoms and put them into a container of lukewarm water.

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