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We can work on indoor projects and a few outdoor cleanup things until it dries up. It’s the time to check out your tools from last fall.

Get your lawn mower in for a tune-up, sharpen pruners and shovels, and clean out pots with hot water and bleach. Finalize your seed and plant orders. Force some spring-blooming shrubs and trees such as forsythia, crabapple, dogwood or willows.

Bring several branches inside that have buds. Cut the ends of the stems at a slight angle and make a few slits, about two to three inches long, around the base for increased water uptake. Put the branches in a tall pail of water and keep them in a cool, dimly lighted place for several days. Mist them occasionally and change water daily. Move them to a sunny location when blooms show.

Check houseplants for repotting and start fertilizing more. Get rid of non-performing plants and purchase new ones. Get some blooms indoors to lift spirits.

Later in April is good for potting dahlia tubers indoors. When you plant the dahlia tubers, keep pinching the growing tips when they get six inches tall to keep the growth short and stocky for easier transplanting. If you stored the tubers over winter, only plant tubers that aren’t moldy or shriveled. Keep the soil barely moist until growth is several inches tall. By then it should be almost time to get them into their permanent locations. Overwintered geraniums may need to be trimmed and fertilized. Keep the four- to six-inch cuttings of the stems, take off all the leaves on the bottom and then dip the cut end into rooting hormone powder and stick the cutting into a pot filled with moistened potting soil. Keep the soil moist.

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Inspect trees for broken limbs and prune damaged branches back to unaffected wood. In general, it’s good to cut branches back to a branch or bud that faces outward. Don’t leave stubs and don’t paint cut areas. Pruning evergreens at the wrong time or the wrong way can cause injury. Not all evergreens should be pruned the same way. Pine, spruce and fir only grow in spring and early summer, so they don’t need annual pruning. Prune, if you like, when side buds are forming. Late winter is best, but pruning isn’t harmful.

Arborvitae, juniper, yew and hemlock grow through the season, so they may need annual pruning, which can be done anytime through the middle of summer. The best time to prune species with needle leaves is after the ground has thawed, but before the middle of June. Avoid pruning evergreens, except to remove broken branches. Wounds won’t heal as well and new growth won’t harden before winter. Other quick tips including keeping those egg shells from Easter to place in your garden. Put the shells in the bottom of plant pots instead of stones.

Keep those questions and comments by sending to Christine Schlueter, 19276 Walden Ave Hutchinson MN 55350, or email to rcschlueter@yahoo.com

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