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Gardeners ponder lilies, weeds, rain, orchids

Easter has passed, so it is time to think about summer projects. Your first may be caring for that Easter lily you received as a gift.

Once the plant has finished blooming, you can move it outdoors. Choose a well-drained, sunny site. Plant the bulb about 6 inches deep. The original plant will die back within a few weeks of bloom. Cut it back to the soil surface. New growth will emerge by summer. Lucky gardeners may be rewarded with a second bloom in September. Others will have to wait until next April or May.

Easter lilies may survive and bloom in the garden for several years. Mulching conserves moisture in between waterings, keeps the soil cool and loose, and provides a fluffy, nutritious medium for the roots. A more attractive alternative would be to plant a "living mulch," or a low ground cover of shallow-rooted, complementary annuals or perennials.

Recent rain may not have made a dent in the drought, but it did green up our yards. Between raindrops, I ran outside and fertilized plants and grass.

The weeds also loved the rain and have taken off with a vengeance. The moist ground makes it easier to remove them. If you have been ignoring this chore you may be surprised at the size of some of the weeds in your yard. They are, or will shortly, go to seed. Make sure they are removed before that happens or your problem will be compounded. If you're fertilizing your lawn, use a weed and feed to help gain control of the weeds. A hoe in the flower beds makes quick work of those weeds. If you have a very persistent problem, you may want to spot treat with a vegetative killer. This will make sure the roots are killed also.

If you had heavy rains and wind in your area, you might have suffered some damage to trees and shrubs. If broken branches or stems are a problem, prune back and give a light application of fertilizer. Spring will bring a burst of growth that will quickly cover up most damage.

My rain barrels are full and will keep my container plants moist for a number of weeks even if we don't get any more rain for a while. I add a little water-soluble fertilizer to the watering can and fill it with the "recycled" water, and it keeps the flowers blooming.

Some time also needs to be spent on my orchids. The yellowed foliage needs removal and the leaves need to be cleaned with Listerine. A few need repotting, and they all need to be fertilized. Even with the minimal care provided, about half of the plants are blooming now and look beautiful.

It's definitely time to add some color to our landscapes. If you're lucky you may have some permanent plantings such as azaleas that are adding a color splash right now. I have only one azalea in my yard, but it is next to the front door and gets a lot of attention. It has reached about the size I want to keep it, so once the blooms are gone I will cut it back about a third. This needs to be done before the buds set for next season, which is about the end of June or first of July.

Other plants currently in bloom in my yard include Indian hawthorne (again near the front door), an unnamed climbing rose, blue angels, Mexican sage, portulaca, impatiens, petunias and miniature roses. A jasmine and bougainvillea in the front yard are trained as standards and are covered with color.

If you haven't completed pruning your evergreen shrubs, now is the time. Hopefully, your plants are in the appropriate sites in your yard so a minimum of pruning is needed. You should basically do a little shaping and get rid of the branches damaged this winter. After you prune, add a light dressing of fertilizer and check for insects. Usually washing the plants off with soapy water will take care of the winter grime and the few insect problems this time of the year.

It is still pleasant to work outside, so finish tasks requiring the most physical labor before the heat and humidity get too oppressive.

It's still beautiful in the mornings and evening, so find time to sit in your garden and share its beauty with friends and family.

Gardeners ponder lilies, weeds, rain, orchids 04/03/08 [Last modified: Thursday, April 3, 2008 5:30am]

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