New England

January, 2011
Regional Report

Start Parsley Seeds

Parsley is a slow grower at first, so it's a good idea to start plants early indoors. The seeds are slow to germinate because the seed coat contains a germination inhibitor that must be leached away by moisture in the soil. To speed things up, soak seeds in room-temperature water for 24 hours before planting, changing the water once or twice. Start seeds in peat pots so the taproot that develops isn't disrupted when you transplant. Sow seeds 8-10 weeks before your last frost date and set hardened-off plants out in the garden a week or two before the last frost date.

Fan Your Seedlings

If you start seeds indoors, consider investing in a small fan to improve air circulation around young plants. This will help to reduce disease problems like damping off that thrive in too humid conditions. The gentle movement of the seedlings in the breeze will also cause them to develop sturdier stems.

Foil Fungus Gnats

If fungus gnats are troubling you and your houseplants, allow the top couple of inches of potting soil to dry out between waterings. Fungus gnat larvae need moisture to survive; keeping the growing mix drier will decrease survival and make the mix less attractive to egg-laying females. Covering the surface of the growing mix with sand will make it less enticing to females as a place to lay eggs. You can also apply beneficial nematodes (Steinernematids or Neoaplectanids) to control larvae in the soil.

Sow Sage Seeds

Stick the seeds of sage in the freezer for three days before planting to ensure good germination. Start seeds 8 weeks before the last frost date and transplant to the garden 7 weeks later. Common sage is the one used most often for cooking; the flavor of the more ornamental variegated varieties is not as strong.

File Away the Long Winter

If you didn't sharpen your garden tools before you stored them for the winter (no, neither did I!), winter is a good time to plug away at this task. Your equipment will be in tip-top shape when gardening season starts -- and a sharp spade really makes things easier! For how-to advice, check out this article on the NGA website: http://www.garden.org/articles/articles.php?q=show&id=816&page=1.

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Special Report - Garden to Table

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