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Rushing Spring

Here’s how to get early indoor flowering

Can’t wait for spring?    
    Bring spring indoors, and you can enjoy early flowers.
    Pussy willow can be cut and brought indoors for forcing any time after the middle of January.
    Force forsythia into flowering next, starting as early as February.
    Quince and weigela branches can be brought indoors any time after the first of March, as can crab­apple, honeysuckle and flowering almond. To force lilac and azaleas, you had better wait until mid- to late-March.

Mulch Your Strawberries

I put off mulching my strawberries last fall because the mild weather kept the foliage dense and green. If you look at your strawberries now, you will note an abundance of red foliage has collapsed on the ground. Apply straw mulch until you can see only five to 10 percent of the foliage. Use straw, not hay, or you’ll sprout weeds.

    Spring flowering plants can be forced to bloom only after they have received sufficient cold to meet their dormancy requirements. Not all species have similar cold requirements. Cold dormancy requirements are satisfied only at temperatures between 44 and 32 degrees. Temperatures below freezing do not satisfy cold-dormancy requirements.
    Cold-hardy plants from northern regions actually have a shorter dormancy than cold-hardy plants of the same species growing in southern regions. Researchers made that discovery comparing red maples growing north of Quebec with red maples originating down south in Georgia. Thus, dormancy requirements are determined by the origin of the species in relation to how quickly the temperature drops to freezing and below. Fall, winter and spring temperatures in Georgia tend to be cool but not freezing, resulting in the maples’ longer dormancy requirement.
    To force cut branches into flowering, immediately place the cut ends into 100-degree water and put them in a warm room. Exposing the dormant branches to direct sunlight will hasten opening of the flowers. Do not spray the branches with water. The evaporating water cools the buds, thus delaying flowering.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at [email protected]. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.