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If you hang them, they will come!

by Elaine Cerny
| April 25, 2010 9:00 PM

Hang them? Of course, I mean hummingbird feeders. I put mine up on April 15, as I usually do. (That seems to be a good time here in Post Falls). Anyway, I was rewarded with the first hummingbird chug a lugging the very next day! Some years they don't appear for a week or more, but they were right on time this year. Who needs those swallows that return to Capistrano? I'll take the hummers every time.

After a lot of cold wind and rainy days, it was great to get some 70-plus days in mid-April. The 16th was the warmest day in six long months - since the middle of October. Even though we got a mild winter, (except for December), it still seemed to last a long time. Us gardeners start chomping at the bit to get out there and plant stuff a long time before we actually can. Patience, what patience?

If you have clematis, and haven't pruned them already, it's time. All but the real early flowering ones need annual spring pruning. Cut them down to just above the third set of leaves. You should get a lot of new growth and flowers this way. They love to be fertilized now with about a cup of alfalfa meal. Be sure to get the kind for horses, not rabbits. Farm stores carry it if you can't find it elsewhere.

Unless you have a greenhouse, resist the urge to buy those warm weather plants that are appearing in stores now. You can't safely plant tomato, basil and pepper plants here until late May at the earliest. If you buy them now, you will have very tall and gangly plants by then. It's best to wait until mid-May. Then you can buy them and start hardening them off. For the novice, this means putting the plants outdoors each day for a week to 10 days and bringing them inside at night. Start with an hour and work up to most of the day. If you skip this step, these plants will go into shock when planted out as they've never been exposed to anything but nice warm indoor temperatures before. Kind of like us running barefoot in the snow.

I mentioned in an earlier column which garden vegetable plants can go in early, so I won't go into that. Flowering plants that can go in now are pansies, snapdragons, primroses and all the early flowering perennials such as lenten roses, basket of gold, pulmonaria, pasque flowers and forget-me-nots. These have all started to bloom in my yard.

If you should find one of your favorite irises showing a lot of rot, don't despair. They can be saved. Just dig them up, cut out the rotted areas and dip each rhizome into a solution of 10 to 1 water and bleach. Set aside for at least a day, long enough for the cut area to callous over. Then, preferably in a different location, dig in a bit of all purpose fertilizer and replant. They should recover quickly and start to grow. Remember, never plant the common (German) irises in an area that doesn't drain well. They can survive just about any conditions but that one.

If you have a boggy area, you can grow other kinds of irises, such as the Siberian and Japanese types. These actually like wet feet. Their flowers are a different shape than those of the German irises, but very attractive in their own way. Cannas and callas also love to be planted in wet areas.

Two of those liking dry areas are penstemmons and portulacas, (moss roses). A lot of the spring flowering bulbs such as tulips and daffodils prefer to be dry during the summer. This is their dormant season. Daffodils, especially, will rot if kept too wet.

If you have large tree roots popping up in your lawn, please don't grab an axe and start chopping away. I know its tempting, but it isn't a good idea. Remember all those big trees that blew down in Spokane and other areas earlier this month? If you chop those big roots, there is nothing to hold those trees in place during high winds.

We create the problem by planting trees in or around lawns. The lawns need water every couple of days. The trees don't but will send up shallow roots if the water is there constantly. Some kinds of trees are better than others at keeping their roots buried deeper. Ask which types are best at a good nursery when looking for a tree to buy and you will save yourself a lot of headaches in years to come... I don't know about you, but I sure don't need any more headaches!

Elaine Cerny has gardened most of her life, starting as a kid in 4-H. Since then, she has always kept a garden of some sort, growing everything from fruits and vegetables to flowers and house plants. She has belonged to garden clubs in three states. She is an active member of the River City Gardeners Club in Post Falls.

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