New England

February, 2011
Regional Report

Spread out Snow Piles to Stymie Snow Mold

Snow mold is a fungus that is active under snow cover, causing circular patches of dead and matted grass 3 to 12 inches in diameter that become apparent when the snow melts in late winter. To reduce problems, spread out deep piles of snow along drives and walkways to encourage faster melting. Later in spring, rake away the dead grass so new growth can begin. To help prevent problems in future years, fertilize early in the fall so grass is no longer in active growth when it gets covered with snow, mow the grass low after active growth stops in autumn, rake all leaves off the lawn before snow falls, and try to avoid piling up snow in deep mounds on lawn areas.

Keep Apple Tree Pollination Needs in Mind

If you're planning on planting apple trees this spring, keep their pollination needs in mind when choosing what varieties to grow. Just about all apples need another variety that blooms at the same time nearby (within 50 to 100 feet) for cross-pollination and fruit set. For example, an early blooming 'Liberty' apple may be done flowering before the flowers of late blooming 'Macoun' appear. The flowering of mid-season bloomers often overlaps that of early and late bloomers sufficiently for pollination. Check the tree's tag or get advice from nursery or garden center staff regarding relative flowering times of various varieties. Flowering crabapples that bloom at the same time will also pollinate fruiting apples.

Start Tuberous Begonias

These lovely shade plants can be started from dormant tubers about two months before the last spring frost date for your area. Choose large, firm tubers with no soft spots. Place them 2-4 inches apart in a flat filled with a moistened mix of three parts soilless potting mix and one part builder's sand. Set tubers with the concave side up and cover with 1/2 inch of potting mix. Keep warm (70 degrees) and moist but not not soggy. Move to bright indirect light or under fluorescent lights as soon as tubers sprout. When the first two leaves have emerged, repot tubers in individual 4 to 6 inch pots, setting tubers an inch deep in the soil mix. Set hardened-off plants outdoors after all danger of frost is past.

Repot Houseplants

As the days get longer and sunlight gets stronger, your houseplants will begin to awaken from their winter doldrums and start growing more actively. In preparation for this renewed growth, now is a good time to repot any plants that need bigger quarters. If a plant is potbound but already in the maximum size container you desire, you can trim back the rootball with a sharp knife by an inch on all sides before setting it back in its original pot with fresh potting soil around it at the same depth at which it was growing.

Start with Fresh Seeds

Many seeds remain viable in storage for years if kept cool and not exposed to moisture. Most vegetable seeds will retain their viability for at least two to three years under such conditions, so you can get a good crop with extras left over from previous seasons. But the seeds of sweet corn, onion, leeks, parsley, and parsnips are shorter-lived, usually losing viability after a year's storage. So it's best to purchase fresh seeds of these crops each year.

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