Mid-Atlantic

January, 2011
Regional Report

Shop for Nightshade Family Seeds

If you're like me, you have garden catalogs arriving daily. Such an easy, energy-efficient way to shop. No driving, no parking, no fitting rooms, no check-out lines. Just pages and pages of the most beautiful vegetables beyond imagination. (And reality, sometimes!) Tomato, eggplant, and pepper seeds need 6 to 8 weeks of growth before planting outdoors after the last frost. If you plan to start your own seeds, check out the offerings now. Best to order by mid-February.

Clean Out Bird Houses

Winter is a great time to clean out bluebird and other bird houses. On a mild day, remove the old nesting material and scrub the inside of the house with a solution of one part bleach to nine parts water. This will kill any residual parasites. Rinse the inside well and allow to dry before closing up the house. This is also a good time to do any repairs on or replacement of hardware and wood panels.

Cull Declining Indoor Plants

Take a deep breath and look closely and clearly at your indoor plants. Some are thriving. They look green, strong, and healthy. They're keepers. Others are spindly, have rotting stems, possibly browning and dropping leaves. Investigate. Are they covered with spider mites, scale, aphids? Have you treated them with pest control products to no avail? Feel free to toss them. Place them outdoors to freeze the pests. Then put them in a paper bag for lawn debris pickup. Wash and disinfect the shelves, windows, and surfaces where infested plants lived. Now there's room for the healthy plants to get more light and better air circulation.

Clean Healthy Indoor Plant Leaves

Dust, dirt, and soot settle on houseplant leaves through the winter months. It is unsightly and also unhealthy for the plant. The accumulation limits sunlight and inhibits transpiration. That's stressful, though not usually enough to kill the plant. Slip into a Zen moment while you thoughtfully clean the leaves with either a feather duster or wet cloth or sponge. Use a feather duster on spiky, fuzzy, or "hairy" leaves such as African violets. For smooth leaves, moisten a cloth with lukewarm water. Better yet add some insecticidal soap to the water, to deep-six any vulnerable pests. Gently wipe each leaf, top and bottom. You'll feel good for doing this; your plant will respond well in kind.

Consider Growing Onions and Potatoes

While you're browsing the catalogs, think about growing onions and potatoes. So many tantalizing varieties to choose from! --'Red Marble,' 'Candy,' 'Shimonita' onions; 'Purple Viking', 'Rio Grande,' 'Sangre' potatoes. Onion seeds and sets are best planted as early as the ground can be worked. Potatoes thrive in cool weather so it's best to plant spuds about two weeks before your last anticipated freeze date of 28 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. In the mid-Atlantic region, that could be from mid-March on. So decide and order soon.

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