GARDENING BY RONELLA: Don’t put off ‘til tomorrow what can be done today
by Ronella Stagner, Columnist
Apr 24, 2013 | 21 21 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In about two more weeks, the danger of damaging frost will be a thing of the past and you can plant those tender annuals, but for the time being, there are some important chores to do that will lessen the work of summer.

First, I would suggest that you apply a pre-emergence such as Preen before you lay the mulch down in your flowerbeds. Then a mulch of about 2 inches can be spread. Those of you who are hoping for some seedlings to come up will need to wait until they show their little heads. Preen will prevent weed seeds from coming up in your beds. All gardeners will appreciate not having to pull weeds all summer.

If you are anxious to start planting those tender annuals that are on the market now, you might take a chance and plant them but be prepared to cover them if you get a frost in the next couple of weeks. I am one of those eager gardeners who just hate to wait so I always kept some newspapers handy to protect the little plants. Put a single layer of newspaper over them and weight the paper down with a few small rocks at the corners.

If you buy any plants, either roses or shrubs or even trees and are not ready to plant them, put them in a bucket of water for a few days to keep them from drying out.

When you are planting those little bedding plants that come in a tray of eight or so, dip the whole tray in a bucket of water so the soil will be soaked. Dig the hole, use more water in the hole, put the little plant in and cover. Then don’t water again but let the dry soil protect the plants. Someone told me that little trick many years ago and it works.

Also, when you plant each individual little plant, loosen carefully the rootlets, which have made a tight wad, so they can take up more water and food. Another word of caution regarding the trays of bedding plants: If you buy some earlier than you plan to put them in the ground, lay some paper over them or keep in deep shade and keep them moist.

A reader called me this week and we discussed some unusual ideas that he is trying. For a weed and grass killer, mix Clorox, salt and some Dawn, put in sprinkler bottle and use to kill grass between bricks on a brick or stone walk. He had also heard that you could sprinkle salt around asparagus to kill grass. We decided that the roots of asparagus go so deep that salt on top of the ground would not hurt those roots. I can’t guarantee that it will work but my reader friend is planning to try it in a limited area. A local friend told me this morning that he uses cornstarch on the hanger that holds his hummingbird feeder to keep down ants. A good way to attract hummingbirds to a feeder is to tie a red cloth bow on the crook that holds the feeder.

I am always interested in any solution to a gardening problem that avoids harsh chemicals. On that subject, always use rubber gloves when handling any gardening chemical. I always kept a pair of heavy latex gloves on a nail beside the sprayer so I wouldn’t be tempted to forget. Many gardening chemicals can be absorbed into the skin and are very toxic.

At this time each year I think of Ma’s flowers on that old hill in front of the old Lewis home and her many flowers and blooming shrubs in her kitchen garden along the fence. Unfortunately, they are all gone. A big bulldozer dug a big hole, pushed the house, smokehouse, the chicken houses and the stables into that hole and covered them. I was living in Minnesota at the time and I am glad I didn’t see it happen. The theory was, according to the Corp of Engineers, was that a part of the farm would be easement beside the lake when it was filled. It didn’t happen and only a very small part of one field would have been on easement property. They paid a very small amount to the surviving children since the farm was not in cultivation at the time it was assayed. This is all “water over the dam”, so to speak, but it is on my mind today as I think of her lovely flowers and the blooming shrubs, which would be in bloom now. My brother-in-law dug up at least a bushel of jonquils. But he was unable to rescue the shrubs and all the flowers. One of my favorites was her althea, or mock orange as Ma called them.

When I drive by the old place, there is nothing to show there was ever a house. There are only trees and bushes and weeds doing no good for anyone. There had only been Lewis’s living there since long before the Civil War. My relatives are not the only people displaced by the lakes but I am the one writing this column so I get to vent here.

I enjoy your calls so feel free to call me at 270-522-3632. If you would like one of my gardening books, please send a check for $13.50 to: Ronella Stagner, 137 Main Street, Cadiz, KY 42211.
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