New England

January, 2014
Regional Report

Remove Snow Gently from Shrubs and Trees

Heavy snow can weigh down and break branches of woody plants, especially evergreens. But be careful not to do damage when removing it. Gently brush off most of the snow with a broom, then lift up branches from below to dislodge the rest. If branches are encrusted with ice, it's best to let the ice thaw on its own.

Check for Overwintering Insects on Trees and Shrubs

Take a tour around the garden on a mild winter day and nip insect problems in the bud. Look for the tan egg masses of gypsy moths on the trunks and branches of trees, especially oaks; scrape them off and destroy them. If you see the stick-covered "bags" of bagworms on arborvitae and junipers, remove them to destroy overwintering eggs. The egg masses of Eastern tent caterpillars are most often found on apples, crabapples, cherries and hawthorns. Prune out and destroy the shiny, black, iridescent egg cases that encircle small twigs

Gather Supplies for Seed Starting

Gather all your seed-starting supplies now so you'll be ready when it's time to begin sowing. Stock up on germinating and potting mixes, containers, labels and indelible markers. If you don't already own one, consider investing in a heat mat to speed germination.

Check Viability of Stored Seeds

Check the viability of seeds saved from previous seasons by conducting a germination test. Spread out ten seeds on a moistened paper towel and top with another damp towel. Roll the towels up together and slip inside a loosely closed plastic bag. Stick a label in the bag or write on the outside of the bag with a waterproof marker. Set it in a warm (75 degrees F) spot and, after a few days, begin checking daily for signs of germination; check the seed packet for average germination times. To figure out the germination percentage, simply multiply the number of seeds that sprout by ten. If fifty percent or fewer sprout, it's a good idea to get some fresh seeds. If the germination rate is in the 60-80 per cent range, use the seeds, but sow them more thickly than usual.

Fan Your Seedlings

If you start seeds indoors, consider investing in a small fan to improve air circulation around young plants. This will help to reduce disease problems like damping off that thrive in too humid conditions. The gentle movement of the seedlings in the breeze will also cause them to develop sturdier stems.

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