New England

March, 2012
Regional Report

Don't Move a Tree by its Trunk

Never move a containerized or balled-and-burlapped tree by its trunk. Always move the tree by moving the container or burlapped ball instead. Moving the tree by the trunk risks breaking off roots inside the root ball, harming the tree. And if a store employee is helping you load a tree in your vehicle, be ready to yell "Stop!" if they go to grab it by the trunk. Insist they move the tree correctly to prevent damage.

Water New Plantings Regularly

Be sure to keep newly planted trees and shrubs watered regularly throughout their first growing season, from the time they go into the ground up until just before the ground freezes in the fall. Don't sprinkle the soil lightly and frequently; this will only wet the top couple of inches and won't encourage the plant to develop a deep and healthy root system. You want to make sure you soak the entire depth of the root ball with each watering. But be sure not to overwater. Roots need air as well as water. A general rule of thumb for newly planted trees is to provide 5 gallons of water plus an additional 5 gallons for each inch in caliper of the tree on a weekly basis. So a 2-inch caliper tree would need 15 gallons of water a week. One way to provide this is to drill two or three 1/8-inch holes in the bottom of a 5-gallon bucket. Set the bucket in the tree's root zone and fill with water. The water will trickle out slowly into the root zone. Refill as many times as needed. The actual frequency of watering will depend on soil conditions and the weather. If an inch of rain falls in a week, you can skip adding water.

Start Pepper and Eggplant Seeds

Start seeds of peppers and eggplants 8-10 weeks before you plan to set them in the garden, a week after your last frost date, when the soil is warm and all danger of frost is past. Soak eggplant seeds overnight before planting and give both peppers and eggplants bottom heat to speed germination. When they go in the open garden, cover young plants with floating row covers to protect them from flea beetles.

Watch Out for Deer Ticks

Deer ticks, the ones that can carry and transmit Lyme disease to people and pets, have long been a concern in southern parts of our region and are increasingly numerous in northern areas as well. This year, with its unusually mild winter (and now early spring) weather, ticks are active earlier in the season than usual. Be sure to check yourself carefully several times a day for ticks when working outside, especially if you are doing spring clean-up in brushy areas. At the end of the day, toss your clothes in the dryer for ten minutes to kill any hitchhikers. And be sure to check pets thoroughly as well.

Plant Spinach

Get your spinach seeds in the ground as soon as the soil is dry enough to work. To foil leafminers, rotate the location of your spinach bed within your garden plot and cover the bed with a floating row cover as soon as the seeds are sown. This will keep the adult female flies from laying the eggs on the leaves that hatch into leaf-mining larvae .

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