So let’s wake up and get going. Even though there’s snow on the ground here in northern New England, there’s still lots of chores to do.
PruningIf you have fruit tress or ornamental trees, like crabapple, dogwood or cherry, now is the time to prune them (before budding). If you are growing pears, peaches and apples, you can also apply a first application of eco friendly “dormant” oil spray. If you find egg clusters of tent caterpillars scrape them off now too before they hatch.
With 2 feet of snow that’s packed hard, it’s a little easier for me to reach some branches I normally would need a ladder for.
Look for branches that crowd the center of the tree and thin them out. Use loppers and pruning shears for smaller branches and cut as close to the junction as possible. ALWAYS cut at an angle so that water runs off of the cut surface.
Also remove any branches that cross or rub against each other. Remove “suckers” that sprout from the roots or trunk. You want light and air to be able to circulate. I also remove any branches that hang low and restrict my mowing. I leave lateral branches for maximum blossom production and cut verticals.
When cutting larger branches, always start with an undercut (start underneath the branch about a quarter to a half inch from where it joins the trunk of the tree. This will keep the bark from tearing. Cut about halfway through and then start the downward cut. Get your blade as close to the trunk as possible aiming away from the trunk and towards the undercut you just made. Undercutting and close trimming will protect the bark and allow it to heal (form a collar) over the missing limb.
Use a good hand pruning saw (such as Felco) and wipe the blade with rubbing alcohol to prevent spreading disease. After you wipe the blade down with alcohol, spray it with a light coating of WD-40 to prevent rust.
If your azaleas, holly and acid loving plants are starting to show new growth you can apply some “Hollytone” organic fertilizer for acid loving plants. This will help them recover from any desiccation (drying out) they suffered this winter. Apply according to the directions.
Make AppointmentsCall NOW before the busy season starts to schedule mower service, pool opening, irrigation system start ups and rototilling. These service people will get very busy in another month! You can also start to call around for prices on mulch, top soil and gravel, if you know you’re going to need it.
Now is also a good time to line up contractors and landscapers if you have a new project in mind. It’s still the slow season for most of them and you can get a jump on your project and possibly save some money too.
Start “some” seeds indoorsIt’s too early for me to start seeds because I only have one room with enough light and an unheated porch but if you are itch’in to do it, now is a good time to start bell peppers, kale, broccoli and lettuce, leek and onion seeds indoors. All of these have long germination times. Kale, broccoli and lettuce are also cold tolerant. If leek and onion seeds get too tall before it’s time to plant them in the garden you can give them a haircut with scissors.
If I had a larger garden, I’d start tomatoes from seed now too, but I buy my tomato plants from my LGC and the farmers market in Exeter. I only need about eight plants for my small garden and I like to grow several different varieties. It doesn't pay for me to grow lots of tomato seedlings that I can't use. Tomatoes are another plant with a long maturity time so they need to be started early but they also need warmer temps to germinate and lots of light to keep them compact. A heated mat underneath your seed trays helps.
If you have bare ground that you prepared last fall, or live farther south, you can scatter some seeds outdoors now such as johnny jump ups, corn poppies, Flanders field poppies and mixed wildflowers. All of them need a period of cold before they can germinate and will begin to sprout as the temps warm up.
Start a few pots of basil indoors for a jump on your herb garden. You can grow them on your kitchen windowsil once they have their second leaves, you can pinch the tips to keep them compact. Use the pinched leaves on sandwiches.
Don’t start annuals indoors yet, unless you have lots of light and room. Otherwise they’ll be too lanky and crowded when it’s time to set them outdoors. I don’t start my annuals till late April or early May, that way, I can put them outside for most of the day and bring them in at night till temps warm up. Even starting this late, l get lots of cut flowers.
Start a Garden JournalI’ve been keeping a garden journal for a couple of years now. You can buy a journal designed especially for gardeners with grid pages where you draw garden diagrams and pages that have garden info in the sidebars and zone maps, etc. or can use a plain old ruled notebook, which is what most hard-core gardeners use.
Mine is a little ring-bound notebook that has a hard cover. I use it to draw a rough sketches of my vegetable & flower gardens each spring because I rotate my crops and sometimes have a bigger or smaller garden. I make a list of what I planted and when. I like to add notes on weather and soil conditions, rain accumulation, last frost date and pests and whatever products I used. I also like to add notes next to any new perennials that I buy indicating what did well and what didn’t. If I plant seeds and like them, I’ll save the packets and tape those in there as well.