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Farmers’ Almanac tips help you get ready for spring

Georgia Consumer

POSTED: February 28, 2008 5:01 a.m.
Re-invigorate your houseplants by removing the top Ú inch of soil and top-dressing with fresh potting soil.
Spider mites are apt to thrive in warm, dry houses. Frequent misting under the leaves of houseplants will discourage them. A solution of 1 cup flour, Ú cup buttermilk, and a gallon of cool water, applied in a mist, is a good organic deterrent.
Houseplants will be sensitive to overfeeding at this time of year. Provide lots of sunlight, fresh air, and frequent bathing for plants that seem a little worse for the winter.
Forced paper-white narcissus will bloom more quickly now than earlier in the season.
Plan your garden
Shop early for seeds from catalogs and garden stores.
Want colorful salads this summer? Order seeds now for red iceberg lettuce, ruby Swiss chard and purple pod beans.
Plan some window boxes. Good choices for plants include zinnias, nasturtiums petunias, geraniums, begonia. Edible choices include cherry tomatoes, lettuce, kale and herbs.
Test the germination of last year’s surplus seeds before ordering new ones. Place 10 seeds between damp paper towels. Keep them consistently damp and in a dark place. Check germination rates to determine how many seeds to use for your real planting.
Take an inventory of your preserved foods — in the freezer, in cans, or the root cellars. This should help you decide your seed order for the upcoming season.
Work outside
Spread wood ashes around lilacs to benefit growth and bloom in the spring.
Test buds of peaches and other sensitive fruits for freeze damage. Bring in a few twigs cut from the trees and place them in a vase of water. If the twigs bloom in a week or two, expect blossoms in the spring and a crop next fall.
Set up birch branches that may have been bent by snow or ice as soon as possible. If neglected, the branches will permanently adopt their leaning position.
Cut poles for peas, beans and other climbers now. Peel off the bark and set them in a dry area until they are needed.
Keep this in mind while pruning: Fruit usually grows on the horizontal branches, rather than the vertical ones. Vertical branches may be trained to become horizontal by weighting them down for a few weeks. This may also be done in the summer.
A barrel or other covering placed over rhubarb plants will hasten the spring crop.
Get a head start
Start onions from seed now. They’ll be ready for setting out in April. Onions from seed are generally firmer and longer lasting than from sets.
Start parsley indoors now. You may think you have successfully wintered over the plant, but it is a biennial and will soon go to seed.
Take cuttings of wintered-over lantana, coleus, fuchsia and begonia for plants to be set in May or June.
Question: I’m interested in information on freshwater shrimp and tilapia farming in Georgia.
Answer: While prospects for fish farming in general are very good, the potential for individuals thinking about starting a fish farm varies widely. It is important that one gets a clear picture of the challenges involved in establishing a successful fish farm. For additional information you may wish to contact Tom Crow of the Georgia Aquaculture Association at 706-367-8817. Or you may contact our office of consumer services at 800-282-5852.
If you have questions or problems with services or products regulated by the Georgia Department of Agriculture you may write the Office of Public Affairs, 19 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Room 226, Atlanta, GA 30334 or call 800-282-5852. This column appears Sundays.


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