New England

February, 2011
Regional Report

Start Celery and Celeriac Seeds

Sow seeds of celery 10-12 weeks before the last expected frost date. Space the tiny seeds six to the inch and 1/8 inch deep. Seeds can take 2-3 weeks to germinate; use bottom heat for the fastest results. When seedlings have their first set of true leaves, transplant to individual pots or cells. Set out hardened-off seedlings when the weather is settled, at the last frost date or a week later. Closely related celeriac, whose cream-colored root has the texture and flavor of celery, has the same cultural requirements.

Don't Worry About Early-Sprouting Bulbs

Don't worry if the foliage of spring bulbs like daffodils and tulips begins to peek through the ground during a winter warm spell. The flower bud itself is still tucked safely underground. So even if cold damages a few of these early leaves, the future flowering of the bulb won't be affected.

Care for Your Miniature Rose

Potted miniature roses are favorite Valentine's Day gifts. While these plants are sold along with houseplants, they do not make good long-term indoor residents. Until the weather warms, give your rose as much direct sun as possible, allow the soil to dry out slightly between waterings, and fertilize monthly with a complete houseplant fertilizer. Then, when all danger of frost is past, either repot it and set the container outside or plant the rose directly in the garden. Protect miniature roses in the ground over the winter with a covering of mulch or soil; move container plants to an unheated garage or a shed cold enough for the plants to go dormant, but where their roots will be protected from freezing.

Take the Primrose Path

Cheerful, brightly colored flowering polyanthus primroses (Primula x polyantha) are appearing in garden shops, florists, even supermarkets. For the longest show, choose a plant with lots of buds that are just beginning to open, rather than one in full bloom. Give them bright, indirect light and cool temperatures for the longest bloom, and be diligent about watering. Plants wilt quickly and need to be kept constantly moist but not soggy. Pinch off the flowers as they fade for continued bloom. Once flowers fade, polyanthus primroses can be hardened off and set out in garden in moist, well-drained soil and partial shade; they are hardy to zone 4. Other kinds of primroses sold as potted plants, such as fairy primroses (Primula malacoides), are frost-tender and should be enjoyed while in flower and then moved to the compost pile when blooming stops.

Prune Apple and Pear Trees

Pick a mild day to prune your established apple and pear trees to maintain their height and shape, encourage new vegetative growth, and open up the crown to sunlight. Remove any dead, diseased, or broken branches and those that cross and rub against each other. Prune out upright watersprouts, branches with a narrow angle of attachment, and those that hang down to the ground. Head back upper laterals to maintain a pyramidal shape. Open up the canopy to sunlight by cutting out several large lateral branches.

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