Upper South

February, 2011
Regional Report

Prepare Bird Houses

Songbirds start nesting much earlier in late winter and early spring than many people realize. Providing a clean bird house is a positive step in protecting birds from pests and diseases as well as a way to make it more attractive to birds. To clean a bird house, open it and remove old nesting material and thoroughly scrub with a weak bleach solution (one part chlorine bleach to nine parts warm water). Rinse with clean water and dry thoroughly before re-assembling.

Force Spring-Flowering Branches

Looking for an inexpensive way to lift your mood out of the winter doldrums? Bring branches of spring-flowering trees and shrubs into bloom indoors. Not only will you have bouquets, but you'll also be accomplishing some pruning as well. Choose a mild winter day and branches with lots of round, fat flower buds. Place them in a vase of warm (100 to 110 degree F) water with floral preservative added. Keep them in a cool room until they begin to open and change the water weekly.

Get Power Equipment Ready

The exceptionally organized person will have done all the maintenance on power equipment last fall, but for the rest of us, beat the spring rush and check belts, filters, oil, and spark plugs on power equipment. Or if you don't feel comfortable doing all this yourself, take it to a repair shop for annual maintenance. In only a few short weeks, they will be inundated with equipment, but yours will be ready to go.

Test Your Soil

Except for container gardening, the soil you have in your garden is at the core of your successes and failures. The ideal way to garden is to choose plants that are naturally adapted to the soil you have. This approach works well for ornamental plants, but most vegetables grow best in a well-drained, slightly acidic to neutral, garden loam. With time and effort, this can be created, but first you need to know details about your soil. To find out this information, either use a purchased soil test kit or, for the most accurate results, contact your local Cooperative Extension office for a list of testing laboratories.

Take a Cue from Houseplants

As daylight lengthens, houseplants slowly begin responding with new growth. If some of these plants have become rootbound, you can begin the repotting process. No rush on this task, but it does provide a warm and comfortable way to get your hands in soil. Also, if you have not been fertilizing your houseplants this winter, you can begin again.

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