New England

January, 2012
Regional Report

Keep Moth Orchids in Bloom

Moth orchids (Phalaenopsis) will bloom for months in the winter if given the right conditions. Give them consistent temperatures of above 60 degrees at night and above 70 during the day, high humidity (from a pebble tray or humidifier), and bright light. In New England, a south-facing window in winter is not too much light, although it would be excessive in summer. Fertilize with a dilute liquid orchid fertilizer (high phosphorous, low nitrogen) twice a month. Let the soil dry out somewhat between waterings, but don't allow it to get completely dry.

Give African Violets Plenty of Light

African violets are among the most reliable of indoor winter bloomers, as long as they have sufficient light. Try moving plants to a south-facing window for the winter, or set them under fluorescent grow lights. They are also easy to propagate. To make new plants, take a leaf cutting, dip the cut end in a rooting hormone powder, such as Rootone, and stick the cutting in a pot filled with vermiculite or sand. Cover the pot with a perforated clear plastic bag and keep the rooting mix moist. In a few weeks you'll have new plants, which you can pot up separately. Late winter, as the days lengthen, is a good time for this indoor gardening project.

Start Onion Seeds

Hardy onion seedlings are one of the earliest crops that can be set out as transplants in the outdoor garden, four weeks before the last spring frost date. And since they need 8-10 weeks of indoor growth to get to transplant size, depending on where you live in our region, it may be onion seeding time soon. The last frost date in areas right along the southern New England coast is April 15 to May 1, which works back to a late January indoor sowing date and a mid to late March set out date. But most gardeners in our region should wait a bit. If your last frost date comes in mid-May, sow onion seeds in mid to late February and set out in mid-April; wait until late February to early March for seed sowing in areas where the last frost comes around June 1, setting out plants in early May. Onion seeds don't retain their viability well in home storage, so it's best to start with fresh seed each year.

Remove Snow, Not Ice from Woody Plants

After a heavy snowfall, carefully remove snow from woody plants, especially evergreens. Brush off big clumps of snow from branches with a soft tool like a broom, then gently shake branches from underneath to dislodge the rest. But if branches are encased in ice or if snow on the branches has iced up and frozen to them, it is best to let it melt naturally. Trying to remove ice is likely to damage the plant. If branches are dangerously weighed down with ice, prop them up from below, if possible, until the ice melts.

Stay off Frozen Grass

So far this winter, we've seen remarkably little snow throughout New England. So instead of wading through knee-high drifts, we have been crunching across snow-free, icy grass. But try to stay off your lawn as much as possible during the winter months, as treading on frozen turf can damage it.

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