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Late February should be a busy time in the garden

The Compleat

Home Gardner

The fourth week of February is your cue to continue planting bare root roses, fruit trees and berry bushes. Asparagus and strawberry roots can go into the ground now. Put out bait for slugs, as they are waking up and looking for food to eat. Check your overwintered bulbs of glads, begonias, dahlias and cannas and remove any that look rotten before they spread their problems on to the others.

February is also the time to fill the house with flowers! What, you don’t have a garden full of blooming flowers right now? Well, help is on the way! Here’s your guide to beating the dark days of February and celebrating an early spring:

Fool Mother Nature by forcing branches

If your forsythia is full of yellow flowers, cut the stems, pound their ends and place them in a vase of water. But if you have forsythia, quince, flowering cherry or plums that still haven’t flowered, it is nice to fool Mother Nature. Cut bare whips or branches that have not yet bloomed and bring them indoors now. The warmth of your home will quickly force the buds open and you’ll enjoy weeks of pink, white and yellow blooms.

Get a Head Start on the bulb season

You can force daffodils, crocus, bluebells and snowdrop bulbs this week by sneaking them indoors as well. First look in the garden for the green shoots of a spring bulb. Dig up the plant – bulb and all – by loosening the soil around the roots and then scooping from below. Shake most of the soil carefully from the bulb. Grab some moss from the side of a tree while you’re outside. Now set your freshly dug bulb into a tea cup or shallow bowl, propping it upright with some pebbles. Cover with the bulb with moss and spray with just enough water to clean up the foliage and keep a bit of moisture on the roots of the bulb. In just days the leaves will lengthen and you’ll soon see a flower bud. Daffodils, hyacinths, crocus and snowdrops will flower indoors weeks before they open up outside. Once the bulb blooms you can replant it back outdoors into the same hole it was growing in before.

Q. I forgot to plant my daffodil bulbs and just found them in a box in the garage with shoots coming up out of each bulb. What should do I do now? Try to plant them or toss them out. B.B., Longview

A. Dig a trench and get those daffodils into the ground now. You are lucky because you stored them in a cold place so they got their chilling requirement taken care of. Bulbs already have their flower formed when you plant them in the fall so they will still bloom after a winter of abuse, as long as they got the cold treatment. Once these forgotten bulbs flower be sure to give them some liquid plant food. They need the extra nourishment to make next season‘s flowers.

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Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of “Easy Answers for Great Gardens” and several other books. For book requests or answers to gardening questions, write to her at: P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw, 98022. Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a personal reply.

For more gardening information, she can be reached at her Web site, www.binettigarden.com.

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