New England

February, 2001
Regional Report

Check Heaved Perennials


In areas where the snow has melted and the ground has thawed during warm spells, check perennial flowers for heaving. During the freezing and thawing cycles of late winter, plants can be thrust out of the ground, exposing the crown to damaging winds. Gently push plants back into the soil and water them well.

Plant in Cold Frames


As soon as the ground thaws and dries in your cold frame, work the soil, add compost, and plant cold-loving greens crops such as arugula and kale. The seeds will germinate in the cold soil and within 4-6 weeks provide the first early spring greens of the season. Sprinkle the seed throughout the cold frame and eat the thinnings as they grow.

Check Grow Lights

If you start seeds under grow lights or fluorescent shop lights indoors, check the tubes for signs of age. Tubes that have been used for two or three seasons probably have lost much of their intensity even though they look fine. Dark rings on the ends of the tubes are a sign they need to be replaced.

Prune Fruit Trees


With the warmer weather, fruit tree buds will start to swell. This is an excellent time to start pruning apple, plum, and cherry trees. Plum trees should be pruned to an open center, while apple and cherry trees grow best pruned to a modified leader (center more closed and tree is more upright). Any dead, diseased, or broken branches should be removed, as well as crossing branches and twiggy, nonproductive growth.

Cut Branches for Forcing

While you\'re pruning flowering trees such as crab apple and plum, cut some 2-foot sections of pruned limbs with flower buds on them (flower buds are larger than leaf buds), place the cut ends in a bucket of warm water, and bring them indoors to force the flowers to open. In a few weeks\' time, your house will smell of spring even though the snow may still be flying outdoors.

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