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The Plant Doctor: Put early spring plants into metal window box

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Although March 21 signals the beginning of spring, it is highly unlikely that we will usher in the new season with a flurry of annual flora plantings, and vegetable gardens. The astute gardener knows that March, and all-too-often April, are very fickle months.

Daytime temperatures are rarely above 50 degrees, and evenings often approach frost conditions. The impatient gardener more often than not ends up discarding the first batch of plants, while purchasing plants for a second, hopefully more successful planting.

Putting together an early spring window box can satiate some of your winter gardening edginess. Done properly, the end product will provide an outbreak of color and a harbinger of hope for the upcoming spring planting season.

For a change of pace, let’s select an open metal grated box as opposed to the plastic enclosed containers. Place pieces of sphagnum moss inside the box around the sides, front and back of the box. The moss will help keep the potting mixture in the container, and during the spring and summer help keep the mixture from drying out.

For early spring boxes, scoop in sand until it is about two inches from the top of the box. Sand is preferred over potting mix because it will retain moisture better and provide a more suitable environment for evergreen cuttings and other plants that will be used in this planting.

Select cuttings from various evergreen shrubs and trees in your garden or community. Some examples may include spruce, balsam, or pine treetops. Twist the cuttings into the sand until they are secure. Place florist metallic twists around the base of pine cones. Insert the pinecones throughout the box.

From an artistic perspective, you probably will want these cones to be seen from the front of the box. For a final touch, liberally add dried plants such as sumac, and berries such as bittersweet among the pine cuttings.

With proper watering, your plant cuttings will last for several months. Even the most experienced gardener will have difficulty determining the cuttings from freshly germinated seedlings.

If you enjoy this simple seasonal project, stay tuned for my next column, which will be devoted to the preparation and planting of window boxes for late spring and early summer. Fear not, your efforts in placing together the winter show box will come in handy when we transfer to a more desirable seasonal planting.

Questions or concerns regarding gardening or house plants may be addressed by e-mail to the plant doctor at Harvey.Goodman@att.net.

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