New England

March, 2012
Regional Report

Let Garden Soil Dry Out

Don't be too eager to get out digging in the garden on the first warm days of spring. Tilling or digging in the garden when the soil is too wet will destroy its structure and leave you with a compacted mess. To test if soil is dry enough, squeeze a handful. If it sticks together in a tight ball, let the soil dry out some more before working. If the ball of soil breaks apart easily when given a gentle poke, it's ready for digging.

Start Vegetable Seeds

Depending on your location, it is time -- or soon will be-- to start seeds of many vegetable crops. Start eggplant and pepper seeds about 8 weeks before your last frost date, tomato seeds 6-8 weeks before. Broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower seeds can be started 4-6 weeks before they can go into the outdoor garden, which is two weeks before the last frost date for broccoli and cauliflower; up to four weeks before for hardy cabbage.

Harden Off Seedlings

Be sure to harden off your homegrown seedlings before setting them out in the garden. Gradually expose them to the cooler temperatures and higher light intensity of the open garden by setting them out in a more and more exposed location for increasing periods of time over the course of a week or two before planting. When you purchase seedlings grown in a greenhouse, be sure to follow this same procedure.

Pull Back Mulch Gradually

Pull back mulch covering the crowns of perennials gradually as the weather warms, taking care not to injure any new growth that is sprouting. Be ready to pull some back over plants if a sharp dip in temperatures is forecast.

Prune Summer-Blooming Shrubs

Summer blooming shrubs like rose-of-Sharon, panicle and smooth hydrangea, and Japanese spirea all bloom on new wood, so the time to prune them is in early spring before the new growth begins. Wait to prune spring bloomers until after they flower.

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