Northern & Central Midwest

March, 2011
Regional Report

Pot up Summer Bloomers

To get a head start on summer blooms, start bulbs and tubers such as elephant ears, caladiums, begonias, and cannas in sterile potting soil. Put them on a sunny windowsill or under lights and keep warm and moist. Move outdoors as soon as the danger of frost has passed.

Take Care of Perennials

Cut back all perennials that were left up for winter interest. Gently push back into the soil any crowns that have heaved, but don't be tempted to step on them. Pull mulch back from the crowns to let the ground warm, and remove any soggy decayed leaves.

Prune Fruit Trees

Prune fruit trees before the buds swell. Prune out suckers, water sprouts, and any damaged branches. Prune out branches that grow toward the center. Open the crowns for good air circulation and to allow sunlight to reach all the branches. Clean pruners with a ten percent bleach solution between cuts.

Spray Dormant Oil

Watch for a weather window to spray deciduous trees with dormant oil. Temperatures must remain above forty degrees and dry for 24 hours after spraying. Dormant oil is useful for controlling mites, aphids, scale insects, and some fungal diseases. Avoid spraying on a windy day.

Wait for Soil to Dry

Don't work in the garden until the soil has dried sufficiently. Wait until a clump squeezed in your hand releases no water and falls apart when poked. Working the soil prematurely can cause compacting as well as general breakdown of the soil structure.

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