New England

February, 2010
Regional Report

Force Flowering Branches

When pruning spring-flowering trees and shrubs such as forsythia, apple, dogwood and cherry, save the pruned branches to be forced indoors for an early spring flower show. Take one- to two-foot-long, one- to two-year-old branches and place them in warm water indoors. In a few weeks you should have beautiful flowers.

Maintain Bird Feeders

It's midwinter and birds have been visiting your feeder for months. However, unless you've been cleaning your feeder regularly, some of these wild birds may be getting sick from your feeder. To minimize the spread of disease at your feeder, disinfect the feeder monthly with a solution of one part bleach to 9 parts water. Clean droppings off the perching area and make sure your bird food isn't moldy.

Protect Evergreens with Antitranspirants

Protect your broadleaf evergreens shrubs such as mountain laurel and rhododendron with an application of antitransparent sprays. These sprays add a waxy layer to the leaves, protecting them from winter wind and cold. Even if you applied an antitranspirant last fall, that layer has probably worn off by now so apply a second coat. Choose a calm, dry day when temperatures are above 40F.

Provide Supplemental Light for Houseplants

If your houseplants are growing tall and leggy, they probably need some supplemental light. Use fluorescent lights to help compensate for short days. Place the lights 4 to 6 inches above the tops of the plants, and keep them on for about 16 hours a day.

Water Fig Tree Carefully

If your indoor fig tree (Ficus) is starting to drop leaves it may be due to your watering schedule. Don't overwater, and don't let the tree stand in a saucer of water for an extended length of time or its roots may be damaged. On the other hand, don't let soil dry out completely either. Try to keep the soil evenly moist, watering throroughly, then allowing the excess water to drain. Wait until the soil dries out slightly before watering again.

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