♦ Prune hybrid tea roses and Knockout Roses™ now, removing old canes and lowering plant to a height of 12-15 inches. To care for rose bushes now, apply a fertilizer heavy in potassium. Apply a drop of white glue to the end of fresh-cut canes to prevent borers. Apply a dormant spray of lime-sulfur and dormant oil before active growth appears. Clean up rose beds, discard old foliage, pieces of canes, and remove old mulch with weeds. Re-apply a fresh layer of mulch to rose beds.
♦ Winter is an excellent time to prune deciduous trees and shrubs that don’t bloom in the spring. It allows you to view the trunk and branches when making your cuts.
♦ Change plant light bulbs over seedlings, as older bulbs do not give off as much light.
♦ Continue to fertilize pansies and other winter annuals with a fertilizer high in nitrate nitrogen.
♦ Prune clumps of ornamental grass before new growth appears. Tie large clumps with rope; cut with a hedge trimmer.
♦ Eastern tent caterpillar egg masses resemble black Styrofoam and are usually found on the ends of cherry and crabapple tree branches. They should be removed and destroyed.
♦ Scale insects can be managed with a dormant oil spray (horticulture oil) anytime that trees and shrubs are dormant. Be sure that temperatures are expected to remain above freezing for a 24-hour period after spraying. Read the product label.
FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
♦ Remember that vegetable seeds have a short life and usually will not be good after a year or two. This includes sweet corn, onion, okra, beans, parsnip and peppers.
♦ Check the germination rate of old seed. Place 20 seeds between moistened paper towels roll up the towel and place it in a plastic bread bag. Put the bag in a warm location and check after 5-7 days to see what percentage has germinated. Discard seed lots with less than 75% germination.
♦ Consider the family vacation when planning your garden. Choose planting dates and varieties so your garden won’t be ready for a full harvest while you are away.
♦ Peaches grow best when maintained with an open center (no central leader). Keep 3 or 4 strong, scaffold branches evenly distributed around the trunk. Limbs that branch out at a 60° angle are preferred. Spreaders can be used to widen narrow crotch angles.
♦ 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 when temps maintain at 45°. For disease and insect control, cut out dead wood and dispose of the prunings. After each cut, disinfect pruners with rubbing alcohol, or nine parts water to one-part bleach. Take care because both mixtures can cause damage to grass or other plants.
♦ Before working an area in the garden for early spring planting, check the soil. It should be dry enough to crumble in your hands so that you don’t compact the soil while working it.
♦ Don’t start your vegetable plants indoors too early. Six weeks ahead of the expected planting date is early enough for the fast-growing species such as cabbage. Eight weeks allows enough time for the slow-growing types such as tomatoes and peppers.
♦ Handle seed packets with care. Rubbing the outside to determine how many seeds are inside can break the protective seed coats, thereby reducing germination.
♦ To make old hay and manure weed-free, spread on the soil in late winter, water well, and cover with black plastic. Weed seeds will sprout after a few days of warm weather, and then will be killed by frost and lack of daylight.
♦ Hang or clean out bluebird houses now before the birds start looking for a home. Don’t clean them on a windy day.
♦ Continue to feed wild birds through the remaining winter weeks. Black oil sunflower seeds and suet cakes are a good choice for a wide variety of birds. Keep bird feeders clean and provide your wild birds with fresh water.
♦ Clean and disinfect clay pots by soaking them in a solution of one-part liquid bleach and nine parts water. Rinse thoroughly to remove all bleach residue. This will have your containers ready to plant with spring annuals.