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Archives for March 5, 2016

Lot to fill in Swampscott

Swampscott will hold a meeting next week to discuss redesign plans for Johnson Park, an under-utilized open space located on Puritan Road, leading into Eiseman’s Beach.


SWAMPSCOTT — Johnson Park, an under-utilized open space area in Swampscott, will be going through a redesign once a plan is developed.

Peter Kane, town planner and director of community development, said Johnson Park, which is located on Puritan Road and leads into Eiseman’s Beach, is essentially just lawn space.

“It never got any treatment or identity,” Kane said. “It’s just a piece of lawn next to the beach.”

A Johnson Park Redesign Community meeting will be held on Thursday, March 10 from 7 to 8 p.m. in the Swampscott High School cafeteria. The purpose of the meeting is to get ideas for the park’s redesign.

The town has been working with a group of graduate students from Tufts University on a plan for the redesign, part of the school’s Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning Program. Kane said the students have been consulting with the Historical Commission, Planning Board, Municipal Design Committee and the Open Space and Recreation Committee.

Kane applied to the Tufts graduate program last summer for an initial concept of the redesign and was invited in the fall to give a more thorough proposal on what the project would be.

“We learned in November we were one of the applicants to be selected,” he said.

Since the Tufts program is at the graduate level, the students have to complete their plan for the park by the end of the semester.

“They will have it done by the beginning of May,” Kane said. “From there, the plan will be presented to the Board of Selectmen.”

According to Kane, the graduate students are going to be looking at precedent plans of other beachside parks that deal with ocean air and the salts that tend to be in that. He said the students would look at how that air plays into landscaping. Another area that will be looked at is ensuring that the park is handicap accessible.

The 2013 Open Space and Recreation Plan recommended that the town develop a design for the park so it becomes an actual park that people want to visit and utilize. That plan, according to Kane, showed that there is not a lot of available land in town.

“[For the] parks in town, we need to improve and make them the best that we can,” Kane said. “We’re not going to be able to create land and parks.”

Johnson Park got its name after the town purchased the land from the old hotel that burned down in 1969, Kane said.  When that land was purchased, he said the town didn’t do anything to make it a park.

“[The town] essentially bought land and then kind of held it.”

When the park was hotel grounds, Kane said there was a pool, bathhouse, lawn, gardens and walking path. When the town purchased the land, he said the pool was filled in.

Some of the few remaining elements are an old concrete seating area and a bike rack that is in poor condition. There are also two stairways on either end of the park to get down to Eiseman’s Beach.

“People essentially just walk through the park to get down to Eiseman’s Beach,” Kane said.

Gayla Cawley can be reached Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

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Mayor: Palm Desert needs additional revenue sources

Palm Desert’s economy is rebounding but revenues haven’t hit pre-recession levels, and ever-climbing public safety costs are creating cracks in the city’s financial foundation.

That was the message from Mayor Bob Spiegel, who delivered the State of the City address to more than 300 people attending a luncheon Friday at the JW Marriott Desert Springs resort. The annual event was hosted by the Palm Desert Area Chamber of Commerce.

“For many years, the news in Palm Desert was all pretty good. That was until the economic downturn came in 2008,” Spiegel said in a 10-minute speech.

“Businesses closed, revenues dropped and we cut our city staff by more than a third,” Spiegel said.

Then, in 2011, the state dissolved redevelopment agencies, costing the city millions.

The city, home to Westfield mall and the El Paseo high-end shopping center along with a retail-heavy Highway 111 corridor, showed a 2.3 percent increase in sales tax revenue for 2015, but is now seeing that flatten, Spiegel said.

Even with new businesses, including Red Lobster, a Walmart neighborhood walmart and a Tesla dealership that arrived on El Paseo in December, the city has not returned to pre-recession revenue levels, Spiegel said.

“Last year, our best year for revenues since the start of the recession, the city received about $200,000 less in sales tax than it did in 2006,” he said, adding total city revenue was down.

He pointed to online sales as a factor, echoing the message La Quinta city officials have been delivering to their residents for about a year now.

“According to one study, Amazon sales alone cost the state and local governments nationwide more than $1 billion in lost revenue in 2014,” Spiegel said.

Yet, public safety costs continue to rise. Like many cities in the valley, Palm Desert contracts with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department for police services, which are rising at about 7 percent annually.

In July, the City Council adopted its 2015-16 budget that projects about $52 million in revenues, up 6.2 percent from last year. But expenditures, estimated at $48.7 million, are also up this year by 7 percent. For the first time in Palm Desert’s history, public safety costs of $32 million account for more than 50 percent of the city’s expenditures.

“To maintain long-term fiscal stability, the city will have to identify a funding source to help pay rising public safety costs,” he said, but didn’t elaborate on what type of funding source.

After the lunch, he said the city is exploring options, but wouldn’t say when the council will make anything public.

In 2014, the city voters shot down a ballot measure that would have raised hotel taxes from 9 percent to 11 percent. At last year’s State of the City, then-Mayor Susan Marie Weber said it was possible the city would make another attempt to raise the hotel tax on this year’s ballot, but Spiegel would not say publicly if that is the direction the city is headed.

The La Quinta City Council is considering a sales tax increase on the November ballot, as recommended by a citizen’s advisory committee.

If Palm Desert did ask for a hotel tax increase, at 11 percent, it would still be below Palm Springs’ 13 percent – the highest in the valley.

Vision for the future

Friday’s audience also got a look at what Palm Desert could look like in 20 years when Community Development Director Ryan Stendell gave a presentation on the city’s General Plan, which is being updated.

The plan will bring a new look to Highway 111 – considered the city’s downtown area – between Monterey and San Pablo avenues, making that stretch more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly while also encouraging more patio dining and mixed-use development.

Under the proposed plan, the city would relax its rule on multi-story buildings in the commercial area, allowing for three-story structures with apartments on the upper levels and businesses below – without interfering with the view of the mountains, Stendell said.

Wider sidewalks would allow for more patio dining or outdoor cafes, Stendell said. There would be improved landscaping and bicycle lanes as well, he said.

It can all be done while leaving Highway 111 – which Stendell continually referred to as Boulevard 111 for that area – three lanes in both directions.

“There is nothing to complain about on Highway 111 now,” he said. “We just see lots of opportunity.”

San Pablo Avenue, between El Paseo and Fred Waring Drive, would get a similar makeover, he said, where sidewalks would be widened by up to 10 feet.

“We see a tremendous amount of opportunity on San Pablo for mixed-use” development, Stendell said.

It would be a pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly connection between El Paseo, Civic Center, College of the Desert and the McCallum Theatre, he said.

The area is patterned after what the city of Lancaster did along Lancaster Boulevard and could easily be closed to vehicles for street fairs, farmers markets or other events.

Mayor Pro Tem Jan Harnik has dubbed the Highway 111 and San Pablo improvements as “where fun and elegance meet,” Stendell said.

In the north end of the city in the Cook Street area – dubbed the “College District” – Cal State University, San Bernardino and University of California at Riverside have approached the city about creating more housing possibilities for their growing student populations.

“They have a lot of ideas about the campus housing and how it relates to Cook Street and west of the city,” he said.

There is a vacant 960-acre, triangular site bordered by Frank Sinatra Drive, Portola Avenue and Interstate 10, he said, that could be developed for a variety of uses, including housing from apartment buildings to single-family homes of varying sizes.

“For the most part, we have a blank slate” for that land, Stendell said.

He turned to the audience of mostly Chamber of Commerce members and said, “Very little in this plan the city does. … Most of this is done by the community.”

The draft General Plan is expected to be presented before the city’s various committees, including the Planning Commission, this spring. The City Council is expected to vote on the plan by the start of the next fiscal year on July 1.

Desert Sun reporter Sherry Barkas covers the cities of La Quinta, Indian Wells, Rancho Mirage and Palm Desert. She can be reached at or (760) 778-4694. Follow her on Twitter @TDSsherry

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Hutchinson’s greenhouses preparing for spring

The vernal equinox is more than two weeks away, but step inside the city of Hutchinson’s greenhouses and pots filled with coleus, wandering Jew and perilla magilla are thriving like it’s mid-July.

The plants will be ready to fill in the beds around town in early May. But before that, in just a matter of days Hutchinson residents will be treated to a display of thousands of tulips blooming in downtown Hutchinson. These are not just any old tulips, but double blooms that look more like peonies in shades of purple, reds and yellows.

Hutchinson’s spring flower show begins with 7,500 to 8,000 tulips blooming in landscaped beds in places like the corners on Main Street, the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial, as well as the round-a-bout on 23rd Avenue.

Be forewarned the show is brief. Tulips don’t linger. Jeremy Lindahl, superintendent of horticulture and forestry for the city, said they will only last through mid-April. But, plans are already on paper and plants are growing in the city greenhouses, more plugs will be arriving in preparation for what will come next.

Bringing about continual floral displays doesn’t just happen. Lindahl works closely with Echo Blubaugh who spends part of her winter designing the city landscapes and picks the color schemes of the plants. She admits to a passion for purple and forces herself to work with other colors, such as lavender.

How it began

Pinching off the plants and rooting the little tips in soil inside the climate control conditions of the greenhouses, in the park maintenance area next to Carey Park, produces more plants. By doing this they are saving the city dollars growing their own. They haven’t purchased a purple fountain plant in four years because they have continually been dividing the grasses in the fall.

“We try to reuse as much as we can,” said Lindahl. “All the coleus and sun patients are recycled.”

Even the colorful ornamental peppers that had been in flower beds around town last summer are saved through the winter and the seeds are used to grow new plants.

The city’s landscaping project has evolved, just like the blending of patterns, textures and colors, to equal the likes of any botanical garden. According to Lindahl it began with City Manager John Deardoff and his desire to make the city bloom. That led to Lindhal being hired for his position in 2007.

“When I arrived there was no horticulture department, and just one little green house that was used for storage,” said Lindhal who has a degree in horticulture from Kansas State University. However, the city knew if they were going to develop landscaping around town they needed someone with the expertise. He began with a slim budget. He also began planting seeds and then taking cuttings year after year. As the plantings around the city increased they hired Blubaugh in 2010. She has taken over the designing of the beds. She enjoys that aspect of her job and promises this summer every bed will be different as they continue reusing as many of the plants as they can.

Residents should expect splashes of lavender dahlias, peach angelonia diascia and silver dusty millers, as well as some lime colored coleuses, yellow zinnias and burgundy vincas spread throughout town.

Lindhal explained that the landscaping balances the perennials, the plants that return every year such as cat mint, lavender and grasses with the annuals which just last one season. In designing the beds Blubaugh must figure out the space and adjust the number of plants.

“We learn as we go,” said Blubaugh.

There is trial and error in the garden. She likes to explore new ideas. Plus, she is inspired by the unusual, like the purple allums that look like giant pom-poms which were planted at George Pyle Park.

It takes a crew of workers

Making Hutchinson bloom is a full time job and takes many hands to accomplish.

The horticulture department counts on about 46 volunteers with RSVP to help them make the transitions from the spring tulips to the summer beds and then switch out the fall designs. Plus, they are currently hiring seasonal workers for full- and part-time jobs. They often count on college students home for the summer. The work includes taking care of the beds around town, fertilizing and dead heading. It can be hard work. But Lindahl and Blubaugh promised they wouldn’t have anyone lay sod on their first day on the job. They made that mistake last year and the worker didn’t last a week.

Throughout the season, Blubaugh says the department receives compliments on the plantings. They also hear from those who think they should leave the tulip bulbs in the ground and let them reseed and grow again next year. But, that doesn’t work in landscape design. In order for the tulips to bloom another year the leaves and stems must remain on the plant nourishing the bulb until it completely dies.

However, the horticulture department is ready to move on once the blooms are gone. Volunteers help pull the bulbs and they will be kept in a polycart where people can help themselves. But, Lindahl suggests they call the parks department at 694-1900 and set up a time to pick up the bulbs.

While Lindahl and Blubaugh oversee the pruning, and cleaning of the garden beds, this fall someone took it upon themselves to cut all the grasses at the round about on 23rd Avenue.

“I guess they thought they were getting too tall,” Blubaugh said.

They do keep plants under 33 inches in the beds on all corners around town.

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Nolensville, Brentwood companies win at Nashville Lawn & Garden Show

Williamson County garden and landscaping companies were among the winners at the 27th annual Nashville Lawn Garden Show, which continues through Sunday at The Fairgrounds in Nashville.

Willow Branch Outdoor Living, Brentwood, was awarded the Ernie Hansel Craftsman Award for best use of construction elements in a garden, and Nature’s Best Nursery, Lawn Landscape of Nolensville won the Reflection Award for the best use of water in a garden.

 Gardens on Main in Lebanon was awarded the Best in Show and the Show Theme Award for best depiction of the 2016 theme, Small Spaces/Grand Gardens.

 Goodin Landscaping, Nashville, Horticultural Association of Tennessee Award for best use of plant materials;

 Willow Branch Outdoor Living, Brentwood, Ernie Hansel Craftsman Award for best use of construction elements in a garden;

 Cumberland Herb Association, Nashville, Plant Awareness Award for best use of clear and accurate labeling;

 Nature’s Best Nursery, Lawn Landscape, Nolensville, Reflection Award for the best use of water in a garden.

 Optimara, Nashville, Spectrum Award for best use of color in a garden;

 Davidson County Master Gardeners, Alice Ann Chapman Environmental Award for garden showing sensitivity toward the environment;

 Peacescapes, Nashville, Floyd MacDonald Creativity Award for creativity and innovation in garden design.

More than 150 exhibitors from a dozen states participate in the Show, the largest annual gardening event in the state with spectacular live gardens covering nearly an acre of space indoors.

The Nashville Lawn Garden Show is presented by the Horticultural Association of Tennessee (HAT), a not-for-profit organization. Proceeds from the Show are used by HAT to fund horticultural projects. Since 1997, HAT has awarded more than $100,000 in grant money to organizations across Tennessee to help enhance and improve the state’s horticultural environment and promote understanding of horticultural issues.

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The best agaves for low desert gardens

When a reader recently asked me what kind of agaves to use in local landscaping, it got me thinking about local gardens when I first came to the desert. This was before drought and lawn removals so desert plants were often overlooked in such verdant yards. Since those days I’ve seen all sorts of new agaves show up in the Coachella Valley’s drought landscaping, species which may or may not prove sustainable here.

The three species well proven for decades in the valley have survived both snout weevil and extremes of heat and cold. They are reliable and worth investing in for important locations in the garden where failure isn’t an option. If we experience a bad weevil year, the new exotic species will be the first to go while this tough triad will hold their own. While all three withstand full sun in the desert, their color and ultimate form and size are more attractive when sheltered from direct afternoon exposures.

Agave vilmorniana (or Octopus Agave): This large and sexy agave was named for its tentacle-like curvy leaves and very large size. A botanist described its preferences for high places this way: “In the deeper canyons it forms extensive vertical colonies, which when viewed from a distance resemble giant spiders on a wall.” This is a curious plant first grown by Mr. De Vilmorin at his garden in Verreves, France allowing it to appear in warm southern European gardens far earlier than other species. This is a solitary plant that does not produce offsets but thankfully retains its original precise form indefinitely.

Agave desmettiana: With no common name, this very popular midsize agave is easy to recognize when young due to its graceful vase-like shape. Unfortunately that form is often lost due to its propensity to offset very early in life and prodigiously, so to keep its original appeal these offsets must be removed often. Though it is thought to originate in the Veracruz area, it is unknown in the wild. Growing to just 30″, it is a good choice for smaller spaces. These agaves used generously at the Wellness Park next to Desert Hospital always have one or more in bloom each spring for plenty of flower stalk bulbils free for the taking around each one.

Agave angustifolia: This gorgeous variegated agave may prove the toughest and most resilient species of the low desert. Native to Sonora and Oaxaca in southern Mexico, it was cultivated in fiber plantations early throughout the Caribbean and Florida proving widespread adaptability. Older plants develop a stout trunk that produces a beautiful sphere of sharp leaves up to 5′ in diameter. This agave offsets modestly.

What all three of these agaves share is a challenging reproductive environment. They will flower after 8 to 12 years of life in a single very tall flower stalk before this mother plant dies altogether. Her stalks are decked out in beautiful golden yellow flowers appealing to birds, insects and bats. Yet even after pollination it is very rare for conditions to allow the seed to germinate so agaves chose other ways to sustain its numbers in the wild.

The agaves are expert at vegetative reproduction which yield new plants genetically identical to the parent. One method is separating the offsets, which are sprouts that develop around the base of the mother plant to will take her place after she blooms and dies. The other method follows flowering with secondary growths called bulbils are produced. These miniature plants are all over this time of year, free for the gathering to fill out your garden without spending a dime.

If you’re new to the desert or know little about our plants, start with these tree cast iron agaves. Widely available, well adapted and reasonably weevil free, you can be sure that decades of vetting in Palm Springs gardens has proven they are our most reliable and beautiful survivors.

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Garden: Lehigh Valley Flower Show will be totally revamped

Spring comes early to the Lehigh Valley.

Next weekend, March 11-13, the Lehigh Valley Flower Show, renamed and totally revamped, bursts into bloom. Expect a new experience as the show theme “Keeping up with the Joneses” is illustrated by displays arranged as a cluster of gardens within a gated community.

The flower show takes place in the Agri-Plex (Ag Hall) at the Allentown Fairgrounds complex.

Now in its fifth decade, the show has refocused on the home garden. Each display will be a visit to a neighborhood backyard. Traditional, modern and abstract styles offer a garden to suit all tastes. The vendors’ market is gone; artisans’ booths have been pulled into the show display and interspersed among the gardens.

Penn State Master Gardeners.

A first-time exhibitor, Kutztown Agriculture FFA, will demonstrate Living Wreath with Succulents. Another new participant, The Emmaus Garden Club, will be demonstrating, as club member Rosemary Gish-Ebersole presents Celebration Tablescaping.

Exhibitors are: A Cut Above, Lawncare Landscaping; A.S.R.E. Hardscaping, Concrete and Snow Removal; Bucks County Nursery and Florist; Koi Creations; L.E.D. Lawncare and Landscape; Lehigh Valley Garden Railroaders; Mason Landscaping; Parkland Nurseries; Ridge Crest Landscaping and Lawn Care; Sunny Lawn and Landscape; Tall Timbers Nursery; Tilley’s Nursery, and Triple Crown Lawn Care Service. Educational exhibitors are Kutztown High School Agricultural FFA and Penn State Master Gardeners.

Belgard Products, ABE Landscape Supply, ABE Fencing and Tall Timbers Nursery are this year’s sponsors.

Remember to bring your garden question. Penn State master gardeners will be on hand, ready to help solve your problems, demystify garden procedures and deal with garden pests.

Lehigh Valley Flower Show, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday, March 11; 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, March 12; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, March 13. Admission; $7; free, children under age 12; $6 on Friday, March 11 for seniors ages 65 and over. A $1 coupon can be downloaded from the website. Info:, 610-432-8425.

Vacation watering

Q: I read your column in The Morning Call and I was wondering if you have any suggestions for watering my houseplants while we’re on vacation for 2 1/2 weeks. We are leaving on vacation in April.

—Jane Meloskie

A: Taking care of houseplants during vacation can be as simple as giving them a good watering before you go, to having someone daily deal with the individual needs of each plant.

The first consideration is: What type of plants do you have? Do some need almost daily watering while others go for weeks before they need moisture? If all your plants have similar needs, I would suggest gathering them together in the bathtub or shower. Give them a good watering and, if possible have a friend or neighbor stop in about halfway through your vacation and check to see if the plants have dried out and need additional water.

If they have different needs, group similar plants together and leave detailed directions.

Another solution is automatic watering systems, where an emitter is placed in each pot and is watered from a central supply container. This can be costly and unless you travel frequently, a bit more than you need.

Self-watering pots are also an option. These have reservoirs of water that either wick into the pots, or unglazed pots within larger glazed pots. In both cases, the water is drawn into the dry soil via the wick or pottery wall.

If you have plants that dry out unusually quickly, check the roots. Root-bound pots have little room for moisture-bearing soil. Repot with fresh soil in a larger pot, or root-prune the roots back by about a third. Root-pruning will allow the plants to remain in a smaller pot and provide some control over the eventual size of the plant.

The best solution is a good friend who shares your love of houseplants. Have them stop in once or twice and check things out. Leave detailed instructions for any temperamental plants. Alternatively, if only a few are fussy, send them on a vacation as well. Ask a friend to take them home and babysit them until your return.

In truth, with a good watering before you go, most plants will survive and recover quickly once you return and establish regular watering again.

Sue Kittek is a freelance garden columnist, writer and lecturer. Send questions to Garden Keeper at or mail: Garden Keeper, The Morning Call, P.O. Box 1260, Allentown, PA 18105.

This week in the garden


•Start seed for: Dahlia, larkspur and portulaca. Finish sowing Dianthus. Next week start: Leaf lettuce, peppers and tomatoes.

•Create and follow a schedule for starting seeds. Check packets for instructions, such as start indoors four weeks before last frost date. Then, using a calendar, count back from your area’s date (April 10-15 for southern Lehigh Valley, May 10-15 for northern areas) for the appropriate starting time.


•Test soil for new beds. Retest soil in poorly performing areas or those that haven’t been tested in the last three to five years.

•As plants held indoors start to show new growth, move them into brighter light and start regular watering.

•Cut back ornamental grasses. Divide when you see new green growth.

•Examine trees and shrubs. Note damaged limbs and candidates for winter pruning. Check proper pruning information for each plant and prune as needed and recommended.

•Get seeds for plants that you intend to start yourself. Check germination rate for all stored seeds and replace those that perform badly with fresh seed this year.

•Apply pre-emergent crabgrass control in the next few weeks.

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Garden tips: Follow us around the Philadelphia Flower Show Friday

An artist’s rendering of an immersive, multimedia presentation at this year’s Philadelphia Flower Show.

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Garden tips for March

Spring is just around the corner and March is one of the busiest months in the garden! But beware of fickle weather and watch out for the chance of a late frost. March 15 is a reliable date for home gardeners to “let the planting of warm season annuals begin.” There are a few exceptions to postpone planting until April, when soils are warmer. You’ll find them listed below.

Annual flowers: Sow seeds or plant seedlings of ageratum, alyssum, bachelor buttons, begonia, celosia, cleome, coleus, cosmos, dusty miller, gomphrena, impatiens, lobelia, marigolds, nasturtiums, nicotiana, petunias, portulacas, salvias, and verbena. You can plant seeds of zinnias indoors now, but wait for warmer weather before planting in the garden. We still need to be water-wise, so instead of mass plantings of annuals, try growing your favorites in a small area around your front door or in pots. I have a few large pots in my back garden and two on my front porch, so I can still have that wonderful spring color, but save water too. Try collecting water in a bucket from the kitchen sink or shower while waiting for it to get warm, and use this to water your pots.

Bulbs: Summer blooming bulbs such as cannas, caladium, calla lily, crocosmia, dahlia, gladiolus, liatris, Oriental lilies, ranunculus, tuberose and zephyranthes should be set in ground now. Set out gladiola corms over several weeks to extend the bloom time. Buy the caladiums now, but wait to plant until soil is warmer, otherwise they may rot.

Citrus: Grapefruit, kumquats, lemons, oranges, mandarins, pomelos and tangelos all do well in Tulare County, and need just a little more frost protection in Kings County. Limes can also be grown, but are more frost sensitive. This is a fabulous month to plant citrus in your garden. If you already have citrus trees, prune any branches that are touching the ground to prevent access to ants, slugs and snails. Use a sticky ant barrier like “Tanglefoot” on the trunk to control ants, which tend aphids, whitelies, and soft scale (see critter control below).

Herbs: Plant chives, cilantro, dill, French tarragon, oregano, lavender, mint (in a pot), parsley, rosemary, sage and thyme. Be sure to plant them in a sunny location. Luckily, most herbs prefer dry conditions, so they are perfect to grow with the new water restrictions. Wait until next month to plant basil when the soil is warmer.

Houseplants: With spring comes a new flush of growth, so it’s time to fertilize your house plants with a diluted solution of soluble indoor plant food. Add a little time-release fertilizer for good measure. Pinch growing tips to promote thick bushy growth. Be sure to turn houseplants each week when you water to get balanced growth. We’ve all seen those plants that look great on one side and naked on the other side.

Perennials: Artemisia, brachycome, butterfly bush, coneflower, coral bells, coreopsis, daylilies, diascia, dianthus, euphorbia, felicity, geraniums, ornamental grasses, penstemon, ornamental sweet potato, phlox, salvias, Santa Barbara daisy, sea thrift, and yarrow can be planted in the spring. This is just a small sample of what can be planted, so visit your local nursery for even more ideas.

Veggies: Plant seeds or seedlings of beets, carrots, chard, lettuce, peas, radishes and tomatoes. Garlic cloves and seed potatoes can also be planted. Start seeds of bell peppers, chili peppers, and eggplants indoors and then transplant them outdoors in April. Wait until April to seed okra, sweet corn and all cucurbits (cucumbers, melons, and squash).

Critter control: Be vigilant. It is easier to win the “bug war” when you catch them early. Patrol for slugs and snails. Either hand pick them or set out chemical baits. Baits containing metaldehyde are extremely toxic to kids, pets and wildlife, while baits containing iron phosphate are non-toxic to all. Spittle bugs are occasionally an unsightly nuisance, but do little damage. They look like little blobs of wet foam with a small bug in the middle. Wash them off with the hose. Keep watch for aphids that quickly build up on the tender new growth and blast them with the hose or insecticidal soap. Remember to control ants in plants and trees. Ants feed on the honeydew that aphids, whitefly and soft scale insects produce. In exchange, the ants protect these pests from harm by chasing away beneficial insects that are preying on the pest insects. Eliminating ants will help biological or nature’s control efforts and reduce insect damage on your plants.

Garden chores:

Spring rains will encourage rapid growth of weeds so hand pull or hula-hoe before they flower and set seed.

Fertilize roses and perennials that are emerging from winter dormancy.

Prune spring flowering shrubs such as forsythia, spirea and quince after they bloom.

Trim hedges to retain their shape. Keep them narrower at the top and wider at the bottom so plants get maximum light to prevent bald spots.

Start to train vines and climbers so they don’t get out of control. Construct trellises for beans, cucumbers, peas, tomatoes, and ornamental vines.

Check irrigation equipment. Soon it will be time to water again. Fix faucets, valves and sprinkler heads. Check drip systems, sprinklers and hoses.

Visit nurseries often, so when new plants arrive you can get the best pick, plus see what new plants or varieties have become available. Most of all get out there this March and enjoy working in your garden.

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