- Cut flowers or a potted flowering plant add fragrance and beauty to a home.
- Order fruit tree cultivars adapted to your area. Consider cultivars released by North & South Dakota, and Minnesota if winter injury has been a problem.
- Send off seed orders early this month to take advantage of seasonal discounts. Some companies offer bonus seeds of new varieties to early buyers.
- With proper storage, vegetable garden seeds can remain viable for more than one growing seaon. Storage times vary depending on vegetable varieties. 5-6 years: cucumber, lettuce, melon, spinach. 3-4 years: bean, pea, beet, carrot, eggplant, squash, pumpkin, tomato, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts. 1-2 years: peppers, parsley, corn. Buy fresh seed each year of parsnips.
- Check the viability of seeds you have stored over the winter by placing 10 seeds on a moist paper towel and fold it over to cover them. Place the towel in a sealed plastic bag to maintain moisture. Label it with the seed name and date. Place the plastic bag in a warm location, 70-75 degrees, out of direct sun. Check the bag periodically and remoisten the paper towel if necessary. Most viable vegetable garden seeds will germinate in about 7-10 days, except parsley, carrots and celery which are slow to germinate. Counting the number of germinated seeds gives the germination percentage; 10=100% germination, 9=90% excellent, 8=80% good, 6 to 7=60 to 70% poor germination so sow seed more thickly to achieve the desired amount of plants. Throw seed away that has less than a 60% germination percentage.
- Don't start your vegetable plants indoors too early. Allow ten weeks to grow transplants of slow growing plants, such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and head lettuce. Six to seven weeks allows enough time for peppers, tomatoes and eggplant. Two to three weeks ahead of the expected planting date is early enough for fast growing species such as cucumber, muskmelon, squash and watermelon. The final spring frost date for eastern Nebraska is approximately May 10th, and May 20th in western Nebraska. Count backwards from this date to establish a seeding date for your transplants.
- Check stored bulbs, tubers, corms and rhizomes, such as dahlias, gladiolas, elephant ear, caladium, tuberous begonias and cannas. Discard any that are soft or rotted. If bulb-like plants start to shrivel, soak them in water for a short time to allow them to imbibe water and plump back up.
- Insects emerging from firewood inside the home may concern homeowners. As a rule, most insects, even tree borers and subterranean termites, are considered nuisance pests when brought into the home in firewood. This is because most insects cannot survive in the home when brought in via firewood, including subterranean termites. Borer-type tree pests will not attack and damage finished wood inside the home. To avoid nuisance insects leaving firewood indoors, only bring firewood inside as needed. Do not store firewood indoors. If firewood is kept below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, insects inside of it will remain dormant. If brought indoors and allowed to warm, insect activity resumes and insects may emerge from the wood inside the home.
- Inspect stored products for the presence of kitchen and pantry pests. Discard infested products.
- 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, hawthorn and viburnums for fruits and spruce, juniper and yew for winter cover.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Any branches that are pruned out, but contain the rounded, brown egg cases of praying mantis should be placed, up off the ground, in protected areas of the garden to allow these beneficial insects a chance to emerge. Don't lay the branches or egg cases on the ground, because the eggs inside will be quickly eaten by ants.
- Plan your herb garden now. Consider disease resistant varieties when ordering seed and plant material through garden catalogs. Seed of some choice varieties may take time to locate. Herbs add spice and interest to meals. To get sufficient growth in herbs to permit winter harvest, you must provide adequate light. Fourteen to sixteen hours of supplementary light is required. Fluorescent light bars provide a good spectrum of light and are inexpensive.
- Consider pasturizing your potting soil before starting bedding plants and vegetable transplants. Pasturization kills many soil pathogens, including fungal spores, and can be beneficial even with commercial potting mixes. Place the moistened soil in a heat-resistant pan or cookie sheet and cover it with foil. Place it in a 250-degreen oven and heat it to 180 degrees for 30 minutes. Check with a food thermometer to determine temperature. Allow the soil to cool before seeding.
- Apply dormant fungicide treatment to peach & plum trees for peach leaf curl and plum pockets.
- Fertilize fruit trees as soon as possible after the ground thaws but before blossom time.
- Inspect fruit trees, lilacs and euonymous shrubs for oystershell scale. Apply dormant oil sprays for control of scales insects, as well as mites and other overwintering pests.
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