New England

April, 2011
Regional Report

Set Out Cool-Season Annuals

Annuals that thrive in the cool spring weather, such as pansies, violas, calendulas, snapdragons, stocks (Matthiola spp.), and sweet alyssum can be set out in the garden. Just be sure that the seedlings, whether grown by you or purchased from a garden center or greenhouse, are well hardened off before they're set outside in flower beds or containers. And if a real dip in temperatures, down into the mid-twenties, is predicted, be prepared to throw a cover over the plants at night.

Build an Easy Cold Frame

Make a quick cold frame for hardening off seedlings before they go into the garden by constructing the perimeter out of bales of straw. Set pots of plants in the open center, then lay an old storm window over the top. Prop the window up as needed for ventilation. If an especially cold night is predicted, cover the entire frame with an old blanket for extra insulation. When the weather warms up, use the straw as mulch in the garden.

Divide Summer Blooming Perennials

Early to mid-spring, just as the new growth is emerging, is a good time to divide perennials that bloom midsummer to fall, such as aster, bee balm, chrysanthemum, helenium and helianthus, and those, such as hosta and heuchera, that are grown primarily for their foliage. Discard dead or weak sections form the center of the clumps. Pot up healthy leftover sections to share with friends.

Organize a Neighborhood Plant Swap

Share your extra seedlings and divisions and acquire some new plants for your garden by organizing a plant swap in your neighborhood this spring. Hold the swap in a volunteer's yard, nearby park, or a neighborhood common space. Spread word via email, on Facebook, or post signs with the date and time. Ask participants to identify their offerings, if they can, and try to exclude notorious garden thugs such as goutweed. It's a fun way to expand your garden horizons at no cost, pass on some of your own favorite plants, and perhaps even make some new gardening friends!

Use People Power to Mow

Consider using a push mower to cut your grass rather than a gas-powered one. According to the EPA, the average lawn mower gives off as much smog-forming air pollution in an hour as the average car does in 200 miles of driving! And each gallon of gas burned releases 20 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere to contribute to global warming. Today's new push mower designs make the task much easier than in the past. Plus mowing is a lot more enjoyable when it's quiet enough to hear the birds singing in the garden!

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