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This week in your Massachusetts garden & landscape

Week of February 19, 2018

It’s time to get ready for spring – especially if you like to start your plants from seeds!

  • The Unguentine Plant or Aloe Vera is a succulent which ought to be cultivated in every home.  It is an attractive plant and is very easy to grow under ordinary house conditions.  Furthermore, it is useful.  When a leaf is broken off, the gelatinous pulp that oozes from it is an effective treatment for skin burns.  During the winter months, it will take all of the sun that you can give it while it is indoors.  Be careful, however, when moving it outdoors in the summer months.  All-day sun can burn unsightly spots on the foliage.  The aloe vera prefers a cactus mixture for potting soil; and it likes to be watered well and then not again until the soil surface feels nearly dry.   Fertilize with an all-purpose plant food all year long.
  • Sort through packets of seeds left over from last year.  Most seeds may still be usable this year if they have been stored in a cool, dark, and dry location.  Onion, parsley and parsnip seeds are an exception.  It is recommended to purchase fresh seeds of these vegetables each year.
  • Check over seed-starting supplies to be sure that you have everything you will need.  Some items to look at are flats or other containers for starting seeds and transplanting seedlings, a supply of sterile seed-starting mix and a heating mat to provide bottom heat for seed germination.  Be sure to choose a location for starting your seeds that provides adequate lighting for growing seedlings.
  • Order asparagus plants.  Purchase crowns that are one year old and of varieties that produce only male plants.  Look for varieties that are also resistant to rust and fusarium which are the two major diseases of asparagus.  Some recommended varieties include ‘Jersey Supreme’, ‘Jersey Knight’, and ‘Jersey Prince.’  Although it does take a bit more effort to prepare an asparagus bed, the reward will be that the plant is perennial and once planted it will produce edible spears for 20 years or more.
  • Consider planting milkweed in your garden this year.  Baltimore Orioles line their nests with the soft fiber of milkweed pods.  Although milkweed is a monarch butterfly favorite, it also draws hummingbirds to the landscape too!

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