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Are you done with winter and ready for spring?

Then check out the tips below for all the steps to take now.

Fruits

Interested in planting fruit, but you don't have a sunny place in your backyard?

Here are a couple of options:

Consider featuring blueberries in the front yard, much like you would a small grouping (e.g. three) of ornamental bushes. Unlike many fruit plantings, blueberries are attractive year round, red twigs in winter, delightful pink flowers in the spring, glossy deep green foliage in the summer and finally bright red fall color. With the soil acidification they generally need and preference for high organic matter, a berm or similar is ideal. A cultivar "Pink Lemonade" was released a few years ago that won ornamental acclaim for its shape, size and pink berries.

If you have shade, consider one of these three low care fruit crops: pawpaw, honeyberries and gooseberries. The former is a small understory tree with a number of new cultivars that have more flesh and less seeds, among other benefits. Honeyberries are a non-invasive honeysuckle that ripens very early, well before blueberries. Lastly, gooseberries are relatively easy to care for and the birds don't bother them; their tartness makes them preferred by most cooked or processed with sugar.

Begin pruning fruit trees in late February. Start with apples and pears first. Peaches and nectarines should be pruned just before they bloom. Additionally, grapes and bramble fruits may be pruned now. Save grape vine prunings for making into attractive wreaths and other craft objects.

Vegetables

If the bleak grey days of winter have you itching to plant a garden, growing sprouts indoors may be just the cure for this. Sprouts are simply germinated seedlings of alfalfa, mung bean, soybean, lentil, radish, kale, fenugreek, mustard, onion, cabbage, broccoli, etc. Each type of sprout has a unique flavor and some vary in color. It is relatively easy to do; send me an email if you need an article for guidance. Make sure to use seeds that haven't been treated with fungicide.

Raised beds are critical for many vegetable crops if we have a rainy spring, and going into this spring, soil moisture is very high. If you have an interest making them, now is a great time for planning a project like this. Look into side support materials, soil supplies and other materials.

Houseplants and flowers

One should avoid using cold tap water, and some plants don't like the chlorine of tap water. A good remedy is to fill a bucket with water, put in front of a heat duct or similar warm spot, and let stand overnight. With this extra post-holiday, before gardening time, consider cleaning the dust off houseplant leaves. It helps them receive more light when it is limiting. While cleaning them inspect for pests, which often flare during dumpy months. Insecticidal soap kills many soft bodied insect pests. If you find mealy bugs, a touch to them with an alcohol soaked cotton swab kills them. February is a good time to repot any root-bound house plants before vigorous growth occurs. Choose a new container that is only 1-2 inches larger in diameter than the old pot.

Take geranium cuttings in February. Keep the foliage dry to avoid leaf and stem diseases. For sowing, in mid-February seed slow-growing annuals like ageratum, verbena, petunias, geraniums, coleus, impatiens and salvia indoors.

Branches of pussy willow, quince, crabapple, forsythia, pear and flowering cherry may be forced indoors. Place cut stems in a vase of water and change the water every four days.

Lawns

One can frost seed in February, the idea being late snow and frost heaving will provide good seed to soil contact. The seed will lay there and wait for the soil to reach suitable temperature to germinate. If it is a mild day, consider raking up leaves sticks following that; it will work the seed in just a bit. Missouri trees always seem to drop some leaves through the winter.

Trees and woody plants

Did you have any damage to woody plants from the heavy snow in January? Heavy snow should be carefully removed by gentle brushing, shaking and tapping. (Ice coating should be allowed to melt off.) For many early spring flowering bushes, the correct time to prune is just after flowering. So if they are damaged, you can leave broken or damaged branches on through flowering and then do corrective pruning afterwards. You can also remove those broken branches any time you want. If it appears the broken branch, if left, will split further, aggravating damage, then it is best to remove it sooner than later.

Are you thinking of planting a new bush or tree this year? Consider new cultivars. There is an impressive amount of plant material introduced every year. A knowledgeable nurseryman can assist on this matter. They get very busy in the spring, so now is an ideal time to contact them. If their business shutters up for the winter, try following up via email.

James Quinn is a horticulture specialist for University of Missouri Extension active in the central area of the state. He is an avid gardener and enjoys his position to provide advice and programming in horticulture.

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