Never too early to begin preparing for spring flowers

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With our mild winter so far this year, its still not too late to do the following:

The latest word on handling your Fall garden:  leave the old stems, seed heads and stalks until next Spring (unless they are diseasedthen cut and pitch).  Standing (or partially cut back) stalks result in a 25 percent stronger plant next year with less dieback because the stalks at the base of the plant hold the snow cover and provide protection from harsh winds and ice.  Also, stalks let you know where not to dig up areas in the Spring to plant new plants!

Scratch LeafGro compost into the ground (2 inches), then cover lightly with shredded hardwood mulch.  LeafGro will rejuvenate your soil, enrich it and help your plants better become the beauties you want them to be!

Put bone meal on your herbaceous and tree peonies now; it will help them bloom better early next Spring.

Water your newly planted trees and shrubs deeply once a week until the ground freezes (around the end of January).  And do the same all next yearthe first two years are critical with new plantings.

It is not too late to plant bulbsjust make sure you loosen the ground up well and do it before the ground freezes (I still have 600 to go!).  Mix a little bulb food to the soil in the holes and water.

Clean out your bird houses now; parasites from old nests are the leading cause of death of hatchlings. 

  Be sure to float heaters in both your pond (to keep an open area in the ice so gases can escape), and in your bird bath (to keep it from freezing).  Lily Pons in Maryland (1.800.999.5459) carries heaters.

During a Winter thaw, check the newly-planted perennials or bushes in your garden beds to see if they have been heaved out of the ground, and replace (or add) soil or mulch around any exposed roots.  Best to keep a sack of soil in reserve for this use.

Weed any time you are out in your garden, especially the white flowering bittercress which is blooming now; it has exploding seed pods if you let it develop that far!

Nancy Burns of Alexandria is owner of Garden Ideas, is a Certified Master Gardener; Horticulture Information Director of District 2Natl. Capital Area Garden Clubs; Belle Haven Garden Club President, and Secretary, National Capital Orchid Society. Contact n.burns@cox. net or 703-329-1899.

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