New England

January, 2013
Regional Report

Keep an Eye Out for Deer Ticks

According to the UMass Extension Tick Assessment Laboratory, "Deer ticks overwinter as adults and can attach to hosts at anytime they are not covered with snow. Frosts or cold weather do not kill ticks." So even though it's winter time, be sure to check yourself for ticks after working out in the landscape, especially during winter thaws and mild spells. And don't forget to check pets as well.

Test Your Soil Before Adding Wood Ashes to Garden

If you have a supply of ashes from a wood stove or fireplace, test your soil before adding the ashes to your garden soil. Wood ash contains some potash, phosphate, and micronutrients, but it mainly adds calcium carbonate that increases soil alkalinity. This makes it most suitable for increasing the pH of acidic (less than 6.0) soils. If your soil is slightly acidic (6.0-6.5), add no more than 20 pounds of ashes per 100 square feet annually. If your soil's pH is 7.0 or higher, skip the wood ashes.

Turn your Houseplants Regularly

Give the houseplants on your windowsills a quarter turn weekly so that they grow evenly and don't bend toward the light. Plants that couldn't take full sun in summer may appreciate a move to a sunnier southern window during the short, dark days of winter.

Give Rosemary Cool, Bright Conditions Over the Winter

Rosemary isn't hardy enough to make it through a New England winter outdoors, but it can also be a challenging plant to winter over inside. Put it in the coolest, sunniest spot you have. Make sure it's growing in a potting mix that drains well. Don't overwater, but don't let the potting mix get bone dry, either. Hold off on fertilizer over the winter. If powdery mildew begins to develop, snip off infected leaves and spray plants with 2 tablespoons of milk in a cup of water.

Organize Your Seeds

When winter's cold gets you down, play with your seeds! Organize seed packets in an accordion file according to starting date relative to your last frost date -- 10-12 weeks before, 8-10 weeks, 6-8 weeks, and so on. Mark the tab on each pocket with the actual sowing dates for your area. Then it will be easy to pull out the appropriate packets when the proper time for seed sowing arrives.

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