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Articles by Dr. Francis Gouin

From keeping to ordering to planting

Last year’s crop of onions was great. It was a bumper crop and should have supplied the family with fresh onions through March and into April as the previous year’s crop. However, due to the early sprouting and a disease called neck rot, we finished eating the last onion shortly after Thanksgiving. Having never experienced this problem before, I decided to investigate the cause.
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Snap now to help your plants stay healthy

Healthy plants grow, and unless pruned, they often outgrow their function in the landscape. This problem is most often resolved by pruning during the spring and summer. But pruning boxwoods during these months often spreads canker-causing microorganisms between the cut surfaces, infecting the branches. Cankers damage boxwoods and are difficult to control with fungicides.

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Yours if you build a cold frame

You can now pick fresh, crisp ruby-red radishes from your cold frame, as well as spinach, lettuce and green onions. If you have a cold frame, that is. If not, here are instructions so you won’t miss out next year.
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Not in natives; Mother Nature knows what she’s doing

Several readers have expressed concern that the warm winter will cause plants to flower and grow. There is no need to worry about native plants in our climate initiating growth or flowering before spring.
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Some seeds are worth trying; others you should avoid

My 2011 vegetable garden was the most productive I have ever had. Even as I write this column in early January, I am still harvesting kale, collard greens, kohlrabi, cabbage, mustard greens and Brussels sprouts. I also had the best harvest ever of fall peas, snap beans and carrots.
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How to use seed catalogs to best advantage

The seed catalogs have been coming in the mail since early December; most will have been mailed by mid January. Many of the catalogs offer bonuses if you order early. You can save money by purchasing early, and you are guaranteed against having to accept substitutions.
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Heat and steam mean the microbes are working

The temperature in the middle of my compost pile ranges from 90 to 120 degrees. I measure using a compost thermometer with a 14-inch stem. The height of the pile has been shrinking rapidly, with the center sinking faster than the edges. Temperature and shrinkage tell me that the microbes are feasting, changing those leaves, weeds and grass clippings into compost.
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Otherwise winter’s chill will wilt your Christmas blooms

Keep Christmas in bloom by shielding your poinsettias from sudden drops in temperature. Remember, poinsettia are a tropical plant, so a sudden chill below 40 degrees can cause the plant to quickly lose foliage, including the red or white bracks.
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Stop them now and save yourself extra work come spring

Have you looked at your garden lately? When you do, don’t be surprised if you see chickweed, henbit, annual bluegrass, cranesbill, etc. starting to create a green carpet. Those weeds are pretty small now, but if you don’t get out there and control them, they will be much larger next spring.
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How to buy and keep a fresh, fire-safe tree

The best way to purchase a Christmas tree from a corner lot is to buy as soon as the tree lot opens. The longer you wait to purchase that tree, the more water it will lose and the more likely it will become a fire hazard.
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