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Gardener's Grapevine 2016.03.16

By JO ERBSKORN

This past week my mother-in-law Betty Erbskorn—who is not only a lifetime member of our Garden Club, but one of the people who originally inspired me to garden—had a hip replacement at Flower Hospital. She will not be doing much gardening this year as her ability to bend is extremely limited.

So when I went out to her house to pick up things she needed I checked out her garden beds to see what was going to need attention. To my surprise, her sedum is up a half inch out of the ground and very green. I love to see those first little leaves peeking through in early spring. This coming weekend I think there will be a lot of clean-up going on both at her house and ours. I also need to see if the hosta are starting to poke through because that’s the time it is easiest to split them. Betty should be coming home soon and I’d like to have her beds looking nice when she returns.

I’ve been doing a bit of perennial reading this week, mostly about how to straighten up the beds and address different problems that can occur with perennials. Perennials are plants that come back year after year. Annuals are plants that live for a season and are done. A few annuals will, however, reseed themselves.

When you are able to get a spade in the ground it is OK to start working your gardens. Doing a little pre-season prep can go a long way. Assess where the lawn is now ending, is it in your flower beds? Remember that the roots in your lawn stretch underground before you see the grass above ground, so the lawn can easily sneak into your beds before you know it. Don’t hesitate to spade those clumps of perennials out and shake the root systems loose to separate the grass out. While it is out, assess the roots for any disease and if it is too big for its space, split it. What is better than extra plants? Also remember that it will get even bigger this year. A lot of plants will increase their blooms if they are split and have more room to spread their roots.

When digging up plants always assess the soil for grubs and other insects. If you encounter an insect you question, bag it and take it to your county extension office or garden center to find out if it is a friend or foe. Foes need to leave, so if that is the verdict, ask what can rid you of this pest.

There are many treatments for grubs both natural and chemical depending on your passion. The fewer chemicals going into my soil the better. I always opt for natural. Next is fertilizing and mulching. Once again, natural or chemical fertilizers are a matter of choice and there are so many choices. Never put raw manure on your beds. Manure needs to break down or cure for a while, then it is the most awesome fertilizer available.

We used to raise rabbits and we cleaned the manure into bins that were made of fencing so air could get through and aid in the decomposing process. There were three bins going all in different stages of decomposition so we always had fertilizer. The kids knew which bins to add the new manure to. By spring I usually had two bins to spread on the beds, and did they ever grow. We no longer have rabbits as our children are grown and 4-H is a thing of the past for us. However, our son does have a rabbit that is a pet and I gifted him with a 5 gallon bucket so I can have the fertilizer again.

Art and I are talking about putting up a small personal greenhouse and heating it with rabbits. Rabbits produce a lot of heat, so running rabbit cages under the potting tables would heat the greenhouse and produce fertilizer. It’s a win-win in my book. We shall see if we actually do it though. Art and I ta​lk about doing so many things that never come to fruition.

Whatever your goals for your gardens this year, it is getting close to playing in the dirt time. There’s a happy gardener here.