Inspect apple or crabapple trees for fire blight and prune out all traces of the disease this month. Also find the blackened, dead branch tips on pear trees or mountain ash and prune them as well. Check for black knot swellings on chokecherries and other members of the cherry family. Prune at least six inches back in to healthy wood when you remove diseased tissue. If possible, dip your pruners into bleach solution between cuts.
Now is also a good time to:
• Prune grapes before new growth emerges.
• Start seeds that need eight-to-10 weeks growth indoors under fluorescent lights by mid-month. Sweet alyssum, blue salvia and dianthus pinks are just a few such seeds. Peppers, eggplants, and leeks are among others. Tomatoes may be started at the same time, but plants will be rather large when placed outdoors. It’s better to wait until the end of the month to plant tomato seeds indoors.
• Check produce you’ve kept in cool storage to make sure nothing is turning soft or rotting. Remove anything suspect, as problems can readily spread. Winter squash, onions, apples and potatoes all have finite storage life, particularly if temperatures are warmer than ideal. Non-hardy summer bulbs, roots and corms such as dahlias, tuberous begonias, canna or calla lillies may also soften or shrivel if temps are too high or conditions too dry.
• Heavy spring snowfall often weighs down evergreen boughs and flattens newly emerging bulbs. It’s probably best to just let the snow melt off on its own. If one prefers to remove it from evergreens, scoop it off gently rather than hitting the branches. They’re still brittle this time of year and prone to breakage. Snow won’t permanently harm bulbs, though they might not straighten up completely this year.