Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
Garden tips for February
Snow business: It looks like we'll miss most of this weekend's projected storm, but a wintry mix can certainly do plenty of damage to our landscape. There's not much you can do to keep municipal road chemicals from your landscaping, but you can control your personal use of salt and ice melt products. Sand and kitty litter can also give you traction and save your plants in the process.
Hands off. Ice-encased branches can be especially brittle. Allow the ice to stay put until it melts of its own accord. Prune broken branches to prevent further injury.
Snow brooms. Heavy, wet snow is another matter. Use a broom to brush snow from your evergreens to keep the boughs from breaking. Start with the low branches and work your way up.
Early birds. Emerging spring bulbs showed their cheery faces with the warmth several weeks ago. A return to frosty weather sent them back into hibernation. There's not much to do to prevent this early emergence, other than to enjoy the show. Just know that what blooms now won't bloom again when we have our proper spring.
Forcing spring. Instead of just dreaming of warmer weather, make it so, by taking cuttings of forsythia, witch hazel or pussy willow and bringing them indoors. Look for branches with an abundance of fat buds, which are more likely holding flowers rather than the slender foliage buds. Smash the woody stems with a hammer to help them take up water, place them in a bucket of warm water in a cool, dimly lit location so the buds open slowly, then move them to where you wish to display them.
Love blooms. Woo your favorite gardener with something more than a cliche this Valentine's Day. Go beyond the expected rose bouquet and think about colorful potted orchids or cyclamens. Or even better, order a magnificent rose bush for bountiful blooms. For the spring dreamer, gift certificates to a favorite garden center or seed catalog may be the perfect fit.
Plant prep. Planning to start your own seeds? Sanitize any flats and potting utensils you will reuse. You'll also want to check other supplies, like your lights and heating pads, to ensure you're prepared.
Ready to go. Let the seed packets be your guide for planting. Each will tell you how many weeks the seeds should be started before planting in the garden. Hardy crops go in before our last frost date average of May 15, tender plants after. So count back each week, arriving at your start date.
Seed sense. To do a germination test for packets of old seeds, moisten a paper towel, add a reasonable sample of seeds, fold it up, place it in a warm area and check periodically to monitor sprouting over two weeks. If you have less than 50 percent germination, it's time to buy new seeds.
If you plan to add woody plants, fruit trees and other larger plants to your landscaping, be sure to pick up a brochure from the Lancaster County Conservation District's 39th annual tree seedling sale. Most offerings cost about $1.
The order deadline is March 11 with pickup date of April 11 at the Farm and Home Center. The variety ranges from conifers like Eastern red cedar, Eastern white pine, and Colorado blue spruce to hardwoods like white oak, black cherry, sugar maple, river birch and sycamore to wildlife species like witchhazel, chokecherry, silky dogwood, winterberry, American craneberry and redbud, to ornamentals like white dogwood and arborvitae. Perennials like dianthus, daylily and Russian sage also will be available, as will groundcover like sedum and myrtle. Crimson Gold and Fuji varieties of apple trees are available, as well as Redhaven peaches, Stanley plums and Encore red raspberries. Additionally, containerized seedlings of basswood, chestnut oak, hornbeam and persimmon will be available. Bring a bucket when you pick up your trees for free compost. For more information, call 299-5361.