University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Spring News Article


Charlie Nardozzi, Senior Horticulturist
National Gardening Association, and
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont

Dividing rhubarb, making cold frames and trellises, and uncovering perennials are some of the garden tips for this month.
Cold frames are handy for hardening off seedlings. You can make a simple cold frame by placing hay bales along the perimeter of a rectangle, and placing old windows or a glass storm door over the top. Purchased cold frames are convenient -- some have thermostatically controlled tops that open automatically when the temperature inside hits a designated point. Since the midday sun can heat things up quickly, this feature is especially handy if you're away for long stretches during the day.
Consider "growing up" this season.  Frame your front door with a flower-laden arbor to greet visitors. Annual vines, such as morning glory, are fast growing and provide abundant flowers from midsummer until frost. While you're at it, add a trellis to the vegetable garden for pole beans and cucumbers, and to the flower garden for annual flowering vines. Clematis and climbing roses make a lovely pairing on a sturdy trellis.

If your rhubarb plants seem crowded, divide them as soon as the ground thaws. Choose a cloudy, cool day, dig up the whole crown, and break off the young side shoots, trying to keep as many roots intact as possible. Transplant the mother plant back in the original hole amended with a shovelful of compost, and plant the babies in a full sun location. Harvest the young plants lightly, if at all, the first year.
Remove protective mulches from perennial beds, taking care not to injure young sprouts. Prune away last year's growth and gently rake out beds, and remove organic debris to the compost pile. Wait to apply decorative mulch until plants are up and growing strong.
If you have a very large container, such as a half-barrel, you don't need to fill it completely with soil. A depth of one foot is enough for most container plants. Set plastic pots upside-down in the bottom of the barrel, then cover them with a false bottom of thin plywood or another sturdy material. Then you just need to fill the top half with soil.
Use clay or metal "plant feet" underneath large containers to help with drainage and to keep pots from staining wood decks and steps. For heavy indoor plants that you summer outdoors, use plant trivets with four casters to make transporting easier.
For many more tips, check out the National Gardening Associationís regional reports (

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