Upper South

February, 2012
Regional Report

Start Some Seeds

Start seeds indoors of vegetables that can be set out in March, such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and lettuce, as well as seeds of slow-growing plants, like verbena, petunia, ageratum, onions, and leeks. If you feel adventurous, start seeds of an early tomato, such as Early Girl or Stupice, for planting out with protection in April. For those using fluorescent lights, replace the bulbs when they have been used for two years, as the light output will be diminished.

Create Home-Grown Bouquets

Who doesn't like fresh flowers in the house? Some of the spring-blooming trees and shrubs in your yard can provide fresh-cut flowers for bouquets now with a process called forcing. Forsythia, pussy-willow, flowering quince, winter honeysuckle, cherries, Eastern redbud, Cornelian cherry, crabapple, or apple are some of the favorites. Cut branches less than a half inch thick and with lots of plump buds, place the cut stems in 100 degree F water with floral preservative added, and place in a room kept at 60 to 70 degrees F.

Clean Bird Houses

Wearing rubber gloves, open bird houses placed around your yard, then remove old nests and dispose of them to get rid of insects and diseases that could harm birds this year. After emptying the bird house, rinse the inside with clean water. Birds start nesting much earlier than you might imagine, so having the bird houses ready is important. When building or purchasing bird houses, it's important to select ones that are easy to open for cleaning.

Prune Grapes

Grape vines can produce prodigious growth each year, three quarters of which needs to be removed every winter in order for the vines to remain healthy and bear the best fruit. Fruits are borne mostly near the bases of shoots from the main canes, or one-year-old stems. How you prune grapes depends on whether you have vinifera, muscadine, or American grapes. Determine which kinds you have, then check out this NGA article at http://www.garden.org/subchannels/edibles/berries?q=show&id=1386 or get pruning information from your county Cooperative Extension Service.

Get A Protected Garden Ready

Getting a headstart growing your own lettuce, arugula, spinach or other cold-tolerant greens is easy when you provide something to protect them from the vagaries of late winter and early spring weather. There are lots of variations possible, ranging from the classic cold frame to special pop-up coverings and low tunnels created with metal or plastic pipe covered with plastic. Choose the one that works best for your budget and skills.

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