New England

March, 2010
Regional Report

Beyond Morning Glories

Some easy to grow members of the morning glory clan make great additions to the garden. Why not try cardinal climber (Ipomoea x multifida), a slender, annual, 3-6' twining vine that is covered with bright crimson-red, funnel-shaped flowers and is a magnet for hummingbirds and butterflies. The dwarf morning glory(Convolvulus tricolor) forms a 12-16" mound covered with pink, blue or white, yellow-throated blossoms. It makes a great edging or container plant. An exotic choice for a garden enjoyed in the evening is moonflower (Ipomoea alba), a 10' vine whose large, fragrant, pure white blossoms open as the sun goes down. Start seeds in peat pots 6-8 weeks before your last frost date and set seedlings out (or direct sow seeds outdoors) after all danger of frost is past. Be sure to nick the hard seed coat with a file and then soak in warm water overnight before planting to ensure good germination. Give climbers some support as soon as they sprout. All do best in full sun and well-drained, moderately fertile soil.

Pruning Fruit Trees

Now is the time to prune your apple and pear trees to shape the tree and encourage new growth. Get out your pruners and loppers while the trees are still dormant, but the really cold weather is past. Remove dead or diseased wood, crossing or rubbing branches and watersprouts (slender, non-fruiting, vertical shoots growing from a larger branch). Then prune to develop a central leader and strong, well-placed scaffold branches.

Sow Early Spinach

Get your spinach seeds in the ground as soon as the ground can be worked. They won't mind a few frosts and you'll get a crop that flourishes in the cool spring weather. Sow seeds about a half-inch deep and an inch apart in wide rows. Thin seedlings first to 4" and later 8-12"; use the thinnings in your salad. Cover plants with floating row covers to prevent damage from leaf miners and flea beetles.

Natural Crabgrass Control

Corn gluten meal is a natural pre-emergent herbicide that can be applied to lawns to help prevent the germination of annual weed seeds such as crabgrass. It's also a source of nitrogen (10% by weight) for the grass, so you can figure it in when deciding how much fertilizer you lawn needs. Proper timing of application is the key to effectiveness- it needs to be applied before weed seeds germinate. In our area, the time to spread corn gluten meal on your lawn to prevent crabgrass is when the forsythia bushes begin to bloom. Put it down at the rate of 20 pounds per 1000 square feet and, if there isn't any rain after 5 days, water it in lightly. It usually takes 3 years of applications to get good crabgrass control.

Flower Garden Record Keeping

Taking pictures of your flower garden on a regular basis is one of the best ways to keep track of what blooms when. Pick a day of the week to go out regularly with your digital camera and take snapshots of all of your beds. Carry your camera with you when you take a stroll or visit a public display garden and record plants in other gardens that you might like to add to your own. Store the images on your computer. Then you can easily browse through them and see what plants combine well in terms of bloom time and when your garden could use a shot of color.

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