, Salem, MA


February 28, 2014

North Shore Gardener: Forcing a little bit of spring indoors


Think of early spring storms as nature’s way of pruning. Down come dead wood, crossed branches that rub, and branches that are growing at a wrong angle. But why waste a big branch? If an ice storm knocks it down for you, say “thank you” and use it. Even if it’s not going to bloom, tiny leaves will unfurl before your very eyes.

Get wild! Bring in any large branch and stand it in a bucket of water or the Christmas tree stand — treat it just like a smaller branch. In a few weeks, enjoy a little tree as it blooms. You can send it to the compost later.

Q: Can I force whole plants? I know I have too many ferns, so I wouldn’t miss a few. Besides, my neighbor wants some for her garden this year, and I forgot to dig some last fall.

A: Branches aren’t the only spring flowers that you can force into early bloom this month. As the ground thaws out, dig up a tiny early-blooming plant and pot it for the windowsill. Try forcing a violet or small fern. Watch it unfurl on the windowsill where it can be closely observed. Later in the spring, the same plant can be replanted in the garden.

This week’s dirt: In just a week, on March 9, get ready to set your clocks ahead.

It’s spring forward, fall back in case you’ve forgotten.

Daylight saving time began in 1905 in order to give farmers more light hours to do chores in the evening. Over the years, it has been thought to produce power savings and to lower crime and accident rates, but it really didn’t become universally popular until 1918, at the time of World War I.

Daylight saving time, summertime or daylight stretching time — whatever you call it — all are a hint that spring is really coming.

North Shore Gardener by Barbara Barger of Beverly is a feature of Friday’s Lifestyles section. Reach Barbara by email at or write to her c/o The Salem News, 32 Dunham Road, Beverly, MA 01915. Previous North Shore Gardener columns can be found at




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