New England

March, 2009
Regional Report

Watch for Fire Blight

If new shoots of your pear, pyrancantha, apple, or hawthorn are blackened as though they were burned, that's a sign of fire blight disease. This bacterial disease, if severe, can eventually kill your trees. To control it, prune off infected areas several inches below the damage. Dip your pruners in a 10% bleach solution between pruning cuts to avoid spreading the disease to other trees.

Divide Rhubarb

If your rhubarb plants seem crowded, plan to divide them as soon as the ground thaws. Choose a cloudy, cool day, dig up the whole crown, and break off the young side shoots, trying to keep as many roots intact as possible. Transplant the mother plant back in the original hole amended with a shovelful of compost, and plant the babies in a full sun location. Harvest the young plants lightly, if at all, the first year.

Start Herb Seeds Indoors

To get a jump on the herb gardening season, start seeds of basil, parsley, sage, and thyme indoors. Start seeds in flats filled with moistened seed-starting mix. Once the seeds germinate, place the plants under grow lights 14 hours a day and keep soil moist.

Flush Salt from Lawns

Once the snow melts you may start to see damage from road salt. To help flush the salt from the soil, water the lawn near roads and walkways several times, especially during dry periods. This will help move the salt down into the subsoil. Once this salt is removed, then you can begin to prepare the thin spots in the lawn for reseeding.

Grow Potatoes in Cylinders

If you don't have room to plant potatoes in the garden, try planting them in cylinders. Using chicken wire or wire mesh, fashion a cylinder that's about 3 feet tall and 3 feet in diameter and place it over a tilled bed. Place a layer of hay along the inside walls of the cage, then add a 2- to 3-inch layer of rich garden soil and plant 4 potato tubers. Cover the tubers with more soil. As they grow, continue lining the inner edge of the cage with hay and covering the young sprouts with soil until you reach the top of the cage. Keep the plants well watered and harvest when the vines naturally die back.

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