* Sow seed of cilantro in a large pot now for an early supply of this herb. After danger of frost, sow seed directly in the garden and make successive sowings about every 3 weeks. Why the interest in cilantro? Studies at the University of California have shown that cilantro contains an antibiotic that is very effective against salmonella. For those of us who love our chicken fajitas, that news is very comforting.
* Plant shallot bulbs. Shallots are relatives of onions but typically have a milder flavor. Also, shallots grow in clusters rather than as single bulbs. Plant shallot bulbs one to two inches deep and six inches apart. Most varieties of shallots are oblong but some, such as the variety Ambition, are rounded. Ambition is my favorite variety, as it stores extremely well through winter and into spring.
* Set up a cold frame to use for acclimating seedlings prior to planting in the garden. As an experiment I set up one of my cold frames over a bed of stone. The stones absorb the sun’s rays during the day and then radiate heat at night to protect seedlings from cold temperatures.
* Use stones as mulch around the stems of grape vines. I first saw that practice in pictures of vineyards in France and have since learned that this is a common practice here in New England. As with the stones in my cold frame, stone mulch radiates heat which, in the case of grapes, aids in the maturation of the fruit.
* Place row covers (also called garden fabric and floating row cover) over the recently transplanted cold tolerant vegetable seedlings, i.e. cabbage, broccoli, to protect them from sudden temperature changes and from insect pests.
* Apply horticultural oil to pachysandra that is infested with Euonymus scale. The female of this insect resembles a tiny oyster shell. The males are white and can be found in abundance on the underside of leaves.
* Consider planting fruit trees in the landscape. They not only produce attractive flowers in spring but provide edible fruit. Most fruit trees require two compatible varieties for successful pollination and fruit development. The exceptions are apricots, peaches, and European plums which are self-pollinating.
* Pinch out the growing tips of annuals started indoors once the seedlings are about four inches tall. This will result in bushier plants for setting out next month.
* Check house plants to see if repotting is needed. This is a good time to divide and repot house plants since new growth is beginning. Even if not repotted, plants will require more frequent watering and some fertilizer to support growth.
* File the working edges of hoes and garden spades. These tools will work more easily if sharpened. While on the subject of garden tools, one of my favorites is the soil knife which I carry on my tool belt whenever working in the garden. It has a multitude of uses, e.g. planting shallots or any bulb or seedling, weeding, making furrows for sowing seed, cutting twine, and as a measuring tool for spacing bulbs and seedlings. Put it on your gift list…that is, a gift you’d like to receive.
* Treat wooden handles of garden tools with linseed oil. Warm the oil gently on the stove and then brush it onto the handles. The oil will extend the life of the handles by protecting the wood from drying and splitting.