Middle South

February, 2009
Regional Report

Groom Lenten Roses

If Lenten roses look a bit tattered as winter comes to an end, cut away the offending foliage as new leaves begin to appear. Be careful to wear gloves, especially if you are prone to skin irritation, as the leaves contain alkaloids which may cause a mild dermatitis. On a brighter note, these same chemical compounds make the plant unpalatable to deer and other wildlife.

Prune Ornamental Grasses

It's important to prune ornamental grasses before new growth begins, or you risk nicking the tops of new shoots and marring their beauty in the season ahead. When cutting tall grasses such as pampas grass and maiden grass, the job will be easier if you use a bit of twine to bundle the blades together before you begin. Cut short grasses, such as monkey grass, with a lawn mower raised to its highest setting.

Clean Birdhouses Before Spring

With the nesting season just ahead, take time to clear birdhouses of old litter. Then, using a 10% bleach to water solution, scrub the house with a firm brush and rinse throroughly. Let dry before rehanging.

Start Seeds Indoors

Use a well-draining container filled with vermiculite to start seeds indoors. Set the container in a pan of water until the vermiculite becomes wet but not soppy, then spread seeds evenly across its surface. Large seeds should be pressed into the vermiculite and medium seeds should be lightly covered. Tiny seeds should remain on top, but insure they have good contact with the vermiculite. If light is required for germination, move the container to a sunny area. If darkness is called for, cover it with newspaper. In either case, the put the container in a warm location and maintain moisture until sprouts appear.

Remove Large Branches with Care

When pruning large branches from trees, careful placement of the cut will ensure the production of "woundwood," which will heal the cut and prevent future insect and disease problems. Look for a raised band (called the branch collar) along the underside of the branch. Then locate a ridge of bark (called the branch bark ridge) above the branch, usually parallel to the branch angle. A proper cut to remove the branch is not flush with the main trunk, but will be just outside its collar and ridge.

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