February, 2012
Regional Report

Find A Recycling Spot For Black Plastic Pots

Garden centers and local governments are making recycling easier every year. Check with your community public services to find out if they include plastics #6 and #7 in their recycling programs. Many do. If not, find out which garden centers near you have a recycling program or bin for customers. This is a win-win for everyone.

Remove Dead Annuals from Containers and Gardens

Be gone dead, brown stalks that were once summer annuals -- angelonia, petunia, osteospurmum, marigold, zinnia.... Pull them out and toss last year's remnants in the compost pile. How to tell if they're annuals? Roots of dead annuals are dead. They're not anchoring the plants anymore. So if you gently pull the brown stalk, the plant will come out of the soil easily. Perennials have stronger, deeper root systems. They'll resist that tug.

Don't Mess Around in a Muddy Garden

It's not that I'm concerned your clothes will be too dirty or you'll track mud into the house. Walking on or working wet soil is a killer, literally. Soil is a porous mixture of organic and inorganic materials, air and water. Half of soil is open space occupied by air and water. Stepping on or otherwise compressing wet soil destroys these pockets that hold oxygen, carbon dioxide, and water important to microbes, chemical reactions, and nutrient transfer.

Prune Privet

Pruning woody plants is best done when the trees and shrubs are dormant. With the unseasonably warm winter, this may be your last chance to prune your privet before it starts spring growth. My approach is to start at the ground and remove dead branches. Cut them off, pull them out, stuff in paper yard debris bags or save for fire starting. Second step is to cut back and shape so bottom branches are wider than top branches -- like a keystone -- so sunlight reaches as many branches as possible.

Prune and Fertilize Roses

Roses are best pruned while dormant before they leaf out. The University of Illinois's site at http://urbanext.illinois.edu/roses/prune.cfm is one website with helpful, accurate instructions with drawings. Fertilize after pruning by spreading an organic, slow-release mineral fertilizer, alfalfa meal, aged manure (all or any) on the soil under the rose. Water well.

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