Perennials: Gardeners will be tempted to “push the envelope” and try more tender varieties. Are we in Zone 5, or 6, or 6B? Climate change seems to indicate a higher zone. Why not take a chance and plant tender perennials in protected spots?
Flowers: Seeds to plant indoors now: ageratum, alyssum, asters, nicotiana, petunias, phlox, stock and scabiosa.
Vegetables and fruits: Before planting seeds take soil samples from several areas and test for pH, which indicates whether the ground is acidic or alkaline. Vegetables prefer a pH reading of 5.5 to 6.8. Soil test kits are available at garden centers or send the samples to your county Cornell Cooperative Extension. Amend the soil with organic matter to correct a low or high pH.
Trees and shrubs: Renovation pruning, that is cutting back severely, can be done in early spring on overgrown yew, rhododendron and hedges. Feed well with an acidic fertilizer. New growth will appear on the lower branches, which will improve the shrubs’ shape and appearance. Browned evergreens indicate winter wind and sun damage. Do not write them off. They may recover in spring when new growth emerges.
Lawns: If the lawn is not too soft begin removing debris by hand or gentle raking. Wait until ground is firm to do vigorous raking. Spread lime if not done already.
Houseplants: Pinch back houseplants to improve their appearance. Continue light fertilizing. Check frequently for insects and treat with a shower bath. Bulbs that have been forced can be placed in a light but not sunny window in anticipation of blooming.
General: This is the season for flower shows. Attendance is a good antidote for gray winter days. The new fashions in flowers and plant will be on display.
— Susan Henry, master gardener with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Westchester