University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Winter News Article


Charlie Nardozzi, Senior Horticulturist
National Gardening Association, and
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
Sowing vegetable seeds indoors, unwrapping roses, and removing suckers from fruit trees are some of the gardening activities for this month.

If you wrapped or otherwise protected your roses for the winter, begin unwrapping them in late March. Do this gradually, so the plant awakens slowly as the weather warms. Begin by removing whatever you used to protect the top of the rose, and gradually remove the protective mulch. Wait until May to prune any “dead” stems, as they eventually may recover and sprout.

To get an early harvest of lettuce and other greens, dig out a large shallow container and sow some seeds. Grow them indoors until the weather warms enough to put them outside during the day. Keep cutting leaves from the outside of the plants to prolong the harvest. Or you can sow seeds for a mesclun mix and cut off the leaves when still young. They will regrow for another harvest in a few weeks.

By the end of March you can sow broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage seeds indoors under lights. These cool-loving crops will need about six weeks indoors before they are ready to be transplanted outdoors two weeks before your last frost date. Keep seedlings moist and in good light (grow lights are best), and fertilize when they get two sets of leaves so they will be strong and stocky by the time you set them in the garden.

Spray horticultural oil on fruit trees, such as apples, plums, and cherries, to smother any overwintering insects. Choose a calm day when temperatures are above 40 degrees F, and be sure to cover all sides of the branches. You also can apply it to evergreens to control spider mites and other insects. Carefully follow the instructions on the label for proper usage and appropriate plants.

Suckers or shoots that sprout from the base of crabapples and other fruiting trees will rob the trees of energy needed to form fruit, so don’t let them grow unchecked. Pull them off if possible because this reduces their regrowth more than cutting them, but use whatever method you need to.

If suckers, check the trunks to make sure there is no damage that may cause these shoots.  Trunk damage may be from chewing by mice, holes from woodpeckers looking for insects, or sunscald.  Especially on young trees with thin bark, sun on the frozen bark in winter can cause it to expand and crack.  Canker disease can enter and cause sunken and darkened areas. If any of these problems, removing suckers and keeping trees healthy is the easiest way to help them recover.

Other gardening activities for this month include attending a flower or garden show, visiting a maple sugarhouse, taking mowers for tune-ups, stocking up on gardening supplies before the season rush, buying some cut daffodils to brighten up gray days, and starting some flower seeds such as snapdragons and petunias indoors under lights.

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