ELAINE CERNY: Is spring really here?

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ELAINE CERNY/Special to The Press Our dog Pepper seems to be wondering just where her yard went!

Daylight saving time starts today, so spring must be close by. Actually, the official first day of spring is the 20th. This is my 10th year of writing this column, so thank you for bearing with me!

We lucked out with a very mild winter, for the most part. Too bad the snow and cold had to return in mid- to late-February. Guess that will just make spring all the more welcome.

Now is a good time to pore over those seed catalogs that the mailman has been bringing for a while now. You will often find something interesting that canít be found in local stores. Itís fun to try growing something new.

I donít know about you, but I find that growing houseplants can help to fill the void during the off season. The blooming ones especially, can do a lot to cheer up a gloomy day. I grow lots of African violets, streptocarpus (aka cape primrose), kalanchoes and episcias (aka flame violets). With enough strong light, these will bloom all winter. Geraniums can do the same thing and these can be saved from year to year. Either keep them in pots on a window sill all winter or put each plant into a paper bag to store until spring. Most will survive this way.

To keep my houseplants in bloom, I give them a dose of diluted fertilizer twice a month. Doing this on the 1st and 15th helps me to keep track. As always, keep in mind that too much fertilizer is not a good thing.

Racks of primrose plants began appearing in local stores in mid-February. Remember, these are not houseplants Ö they are perennials. The objective is to keep them alive until you can plant them outdoors. To do this, place them in your coolest bright window. Donít let them dry out. On mild days, go ahead and put them outside for a few hours. These plants will live for years in your flowerbeds and will usually bloom both in early spring and late fall as they prefer cool weather.

If you enjoy starting seeds indoors, remember that some plants take a long time to develop enough size to transplant outdoors, usually in late May or early June. Be sure to read the directions on the seed package as there are those seeds that need to be covered, those that donít, those that need to be soaked in water first, etc.

If the moose havenít already trimmed your trees and bushes, now is a good time to do it. The exceptions are those that bloom in early spring. These need to be trimmed shortly after they bloom. Keep in mind the cardinal rule of pruning: never cut off more than one third of the plant at one time.

Speaking of moose, we have some visit our neighborhood every winter. In fact, three were here just recently. I heard about a neighbor lady who tried to chase one out of her yard by waving a dishtowel at it. You wonít catch me doing that!

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Elaine Cerny has gardened most of her life, starting in 4-H. She has belonged to garden clubs in three states and is currently serving as secretary for the River City Gardeners club in Post Falls. Her column appears in The Press every other Sunday from early March until late October.

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