Mid-Atlantic

February, 2011
Regional Report

Cut Back 'Annabelle' and 'Hills of Snow' Hydrangeas

Hydrangea arborescens cultivars bloom on new wood. Pruning them in winter makes for neater plants come bloom time. I remove dead stems at ground level. Some experts recommend pruning all branches to the ground. I'm too chicken. I thin, though, by cutting off the dead sections of live stems and removing short, thin stems.

Clip Leggy Indoor Plants

If last winter you brought geraniums, impatiens, petunias, basil, and other tender plants indoors, they're likely looking lean and lanky now. Check them for pests. Then clip back stems to stimulate new spring growth.

Get a Grip Early on Invasives

Some invasive weeds sprout early, before preferred plants even poke through the soil. If you're not inclined to use toxic herbicides, you can slow down -- though not wipe out -- invasives such as goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria) and lesser celandine (Ranunculus ficaria) by weakening the plants. Start with the early sprouts. Spray young seedlings with a non-toxic weed killer to burn off leaves and stems or fry them with a flame weeder. They will resprout on live roots. Defoliate the young pest sprouts again and again, until perennials and grasses start filling in.

Sharpen Shovels and Hoes

Once you use a sharp shovel, you'll be quick to keep a good edge. Cutting through soil with sharp blade is soooo much easier than with a dull blade. Good hardware stores offer this service -- sometimes by someone in-house, more often by sending out the tools. Clean off shovels and hoe blades and handles. Treat handles with linseed oil. Take them for sharpening or learn how to do it yourself.

Stretch and Strengthen

If winter has slowed you down, start warming up now for spring gardening. Take an exercise class, begin belly dancing, adopt a weight-training routine, flow into yoga, zip into Zumba. Get moving. Stretching and strengthening before grabbing the shovel and carrying mulch will mean less chance for injury come spring thaw.

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