* BARE-ROOT STOCK. Early this month, set out bare-root plants of small fruits like grapes, raspberries, and strawberries; vegetables like asparagus and horseradish; and all kinds of fruit and shade trees. Bare-root plants cost less than those sold in containers and adapt more quickly to native garden soil. It's essential to bring home nursery plants with their bare roots wrapped in damp cloth or sawdust: if they dry out, they die.
* LAWNS. You can overseed an old lawn or plant a new one this month. To overseed, first rough up the soil and sow it with the same kind of grass that was already growing there. Otherwise the texture and color of the new grass will contrast with the old. For a new lawn, till 2 inches of organic matter into the top 8 inches of soil before you sow. Keep all newly sown areas well watered until the grass is tall enough to mow.
* FEED BERRIES. Established blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries can all use a dose of high-nitrogen fertilizer or well-aged manure this month. But hold off feeding new plantings until their roots have taken hold.
* FEED EVERGREENS. Sprinkle high-nitrogen fertilizer over the root zones around plants and water it in thoroughly.
* FEED ROSES. Pick a day when nighttime temperatures are forecast to remain above freezing. Water established plants, let the soil drain, apply a complete fertilizer, and then water again.
* FEED SHRUBS. As soon as early-flowering shrubs have finished blooming, feed them with a high-nitrogen fertilizer. Do this on a mild day when temperatures are well above freezing.
* INSTALL IRRIGATION SYSTEMS. Install drip-irrigation systems or lay ooze-type soaker hoses in beds before plants leaf out.
* PREPARE BEDS. Once the soil has thawed, dig compost or well-aged manure into planting beds. If you have really bad soil, till 4 to 6 inches of organic matter into the top foot of soil. Rake amended beds, water them, and let them settle for a week before planting.
* START COMPOSTING. As you get the garden in shape for planting, use the weeds you pull to start a compost pile. Layer green weeds with dry leaves, straw, or sawdust. Keep the pile damp and turn it weekly with a pitchfork. The compost should be ready in a few weeks.
PEST & WEED CONTROL
* APHIDS. In small numbers, these sucking insects do relatively little damage to plants. But when populations build up, they can do great harm. Watch tender new growth carefully; when you see a population develop, blast them off with hose water or spray with insecticidal soap.
* WEEDS. Hoe them now while they're young and shallow-rooted. If you wait until they form deep taproots, they'll sprout - and you'll weed - again. If weeds germinate between the time you prepare a flower bed and plant, hoe them lightly without disturbing more than the top 1/2 inch of soil. If you hoe any deeper, or till more, you'll just bring up a fresh batch of weed seeds.
BACK TO BASICS
Planting from cell-packs
Many plants, including summer annuals, are available in cell-packs at nurseries this month. Here's how to get these plants off to a good start. 1) Turn cell-pack upside down and poke plants out by pushing on the bottom of the individual cell with your thumb; let gravity help. If plant is tight, run a knife between container and soil. 2) Lightly separate matted roots. If there's a pad of coiled roots at the bottom, cut it of so roots will grow into soil. 3) Without squeezing roots, position plant in a generous planting hole, fill in around the roots with soil, press lightly to firm, and water gently.