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The time to start growing your leeks is now

Starting leeks from seeds, properly keeping snow off shrubs, and giving cut flowers the right care are some of the gardening tips for this month.

Long-season alliums, such as leeks and onions, should be started from seed now. They need 10 to 12 weeks of growth indoors before they go in the garden. Sprinkle the seed on top of seed-starting mix, keep it moist, and as soon as the seedlings emerge, place the flats under grow lights so they grow strong. Begonias and pansies are couple of flowers you might start now too.

Although a sunny windowsill is an ideal spot for sun-loving houseplants, be sure the plants aren't too close to the glass or they could be damaged by the cold. Also, since heating vents are often located underneath windows, plants are prone to drying out quickly. You may want to move plants to a different location until the weather moderates.

When tree and shrub branches bend under the weight of a new snowfall, use a broom to gently brush off the snow. Don't try to remove ice or you might break the branch. It's possible to save a large branch that partially splits from the main trunk if you tie it in place and use long screws (coming from each direction, if necessary) to secure it. If done right away, the tree may callous over the wound and heal itself.

For seeds that need warmth to germinate, a heat mat underneath the flat can make a big difference. Once the seedlings are up, move them off the mat and grow them on at a cooler temperature to encourage strong, stocky growth. You can find inexpensive mats at some garden stores and online seed firms. Try putting a piece of reflective foil insulation underneath the mat to direct the heat up towards the flat.

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