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Rail City Garden Center

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Garden Tips of the Month


• During the winter, one of our most severe problems is ‘heaving’. This occurs during the cycles of freezing soil temperatures followed by bright winter sun & warming day temperatures followed again by freezing nights. As little as 1⁄4” of exposed plant roots if exposed & dehydrated can kill an entire plant. Fall blooming chrysanthemums are a good example. The best way to combat the problem is first by mulching beds & second, checking the beds during winter warm spells as in January thaw. Any areas that have risen up, even slightly, need to be gently pushed back down by hand or the ball of your foot, then adds another light layer of mulch for protection.

• Walking your yard in winter as well as viewing it from your favorite vantage points in the home can help you visualize new options for next season. Ideas for more structure in the yard to add to winter interest such as an arbor, a short wall of limestone or blocks in a sweep or even a tree with interesting bark or winter fruit. A new habitat area for birds or butterflies with a small pond or a sweeping island of colorful shrubs & perennials with ornamental grasses to add more interest to a large expanse of lawn. Shrub roses can add ‘pizzazz’ to a long hedge or wall and offer summertime color.

• Order perennial plants and bulbs now for cut flowers this summer. Particularly good choices are phlox, daisies, coreopsis, asters and lilies.
• Check stored bulbs, tubers and corms. Discard any that are soft or diseased.

• Don't remove mulch from perennials too early. A warm day may make you think spring is almost here but there may be more cold weather yet to come.

• Order gladiolus corms now for planting later in the spring after all danger of frost has passed. Locate in full sun in well drained soil.

• Branches of forsythia, pussy willow, quince, spirea, and dogwood can be forced for indoor bloom. Make long, slanted cuts when collecting the branches and place the stems in a vase of water. Change the water every four days. They should bloom in about 3 weeks.

• Late winter is the time to prune many deciduous trees. Look over your plants now and remove dead, dying, or unsightly parts of the tree, sprouts growing at or near the base of the tree trunk and crossed branches.

• If bird feeding has been a favorite activity this winter, order trees and shrubs which provide cover and small fruits for your feathered friends. Consider species such as crabapple and hawthorn which can help lure hungry birds from cultivated fruits, if planted on the opposite side of the yard.

• Check any vegetables you have in storage. Dispose of any that show signs of shriveling or rotting.

• This year plan to grow at least one new vegetable that you've never grown before; it may be better than what you are already growing. The new dwarf varieties on the market which use less space while producing more food per square foot may be just what you're looking for.

• Don't start your vegetable plants indoors too early. Six weeks ahead of the expected planting date is early enough for the fast growth species such as cabbage. Eight weeks allows enough time for the slower growing types such as peppers.

• Prune fruit trees and grapes in late February or early March after the worst of the winter cold is passed but before spring growth begins.

• Fertilize fruit trees as soon as possible after the ground thaws but before blossom time.

• Late February is a good time to air layer such house plants as dracaena, dieffenbachia and rubber plant, especially if they have grown too tall and leggy.

• Check all five growing factors if your house plants are not growing well. Light, temperature, nutrients, moisture, and humidity must be favorable to provide good growth.

• Repair and paint window boxes, lawn furniture, tools and other items in preparation for outdoor gardening and recreational use



• Start transplants indoors of tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant

• Prune roses when they have 3 pairs of leaves at each bud

• Check your tools and get your mower serviced and blades sharpened!

• After cleaning up flower beds apply a slow-release organic fertilizer for healthier plants this season.

• As the soil thaws, be sure to water dry areas, especially evergreens.

• Early spring is the best time for renovation & clean-up in the yard & garden. Broken & rubbing branches as well as sucker growth are easily spotted & removed at this time. Thinning overgrown shrubs by removing the oldest branches to encourage new growth is also easier before new foliage emerges.

• As new growth begins in the perennial & shrub borders, clean-up of last year’s stems is easily done. Application of Sustane fertilizer 5#/100 sq.ft. & Preen is done now (Forsythia will be in bloom) & again in late July.

• Shrubby type perennials (sub-shrubs), such as Butterfly Bushes, Blue Mist Spirea, Russian Sage & Beautyberry should be cut down now to 6-8” as these plants bloom on new wood. Ornamental grasses also need to be cut down to 6”. To make cutting grasses easier, tie a rope tight near the base of the plant & cut below it.

• Roses, Lavender & Clematis are plants that should not be pruned until new growth begins, generally in late April or May. Roses need to have dead & diseased branches removed as well as crossing stems to open up center for good air circulation. Cut lavender back to 4-6”. Summer & fall blooming clematis that bloom on new wood need to be cut down to 12”. Spring blooming varieties are best thinned & removal of dead or broken branches done.

• Spade edge borders need to be cut in spring & again mid-summer to keep grasses from encroaching into beds. Even brick borders will look sharper if edged at least once every year.

• Be sure wood mulches are top dressed early, before plants are up & in the way. Mulch should be 2-3” deep, but tapered down at trunks of trees & shrubs.

• Fall-blooming perennials as well as hostas & daylilies can be dug & divided in half or thirds (depending on size) as soon as they are up 6” to be replanted for blooms later in the season.

• Do your annual Spring Pond Clean-Out while temperatures are low. This causes less stress on the fish and gives you a chance to control algae and aquatic weeds early.

Pond Tips

Click this link for Spring Pond Tips
Click this link for Justins Clear Water Recipe
Click this link for Salting Your Pond
Click this link for Rejuvenate Your Pond With A Spring Clean Out




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