March, 2003
Regional Report

Don't Dig in the Mud

When you were little, your mother probably told you not to play in the mud. Don't do it as a gardener, either. Melting snow and spring rain can cause extremely wet conditions. Working overly wet, muddy soil can damage its structure. If it sticks to your shovel, wait a little longer.

Stop Crabgrass

If you need to apply a pre-emergent crabgrass preventer, such as corn gluten meal, make sure to apply it very early this spring. The rule of thumb is to put it down when the forsythia blooms in your neighborhood because that is how early the crabgrass begins to germinate. Be sure to read and carefully follow all label instructions for best results.

Take it Easy on Pruning Hydrangeas

Bigleaf hydrangeas (H. macrophylla) -- with the pink or blue flowers -- will bloom this season on wood that grew last year. Spring pruning is generally limited to removal of branches that died over the winter. This plant looks unpromising and leafs out extremely late each spring, so be patient before deciding to remove any seemingly dead wood.

Prune Shrubs

Prune summer-blooming shrubs, such as Rose of Sharon, caryopteris, and butterfly bush (not hydrangeas), in early spring. Remove winter-killed branches and then shape as desired. Wait to prune spring-blooming shrubs, such as forsythia, spirea, and lilac, until after they bloom. Then remove dead, diseased, or broken branches. To thin, remove some of the oldest stems by cutting them at ground level.

Start Seeds

Germinating seeds need steady soil moisture. If too soggy, the seeds may rot. If allowed to dry out, the seeds may begin to grow but then die. To maintain the optimum moisture, sow seeds in predampened soil mix, then enclose under plastic wrap. Keep out of direct sun (to avoid overheating) and remove the cover as soon as sprouts appear.

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