ELAINE CERNY: Hey hey, it’s May!

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ELAINE CERNY/Special to The Press Parrot tulips in full bloom.

This will be a busy month for all us gardeners, but who’s complaining? After that long winter, we’re tickled pink to get out there and go to work, right?

One of my least favorite chores, but a very necessary one, is to pull or dig weeds. I’d never seen one particular weed until about three years ago. It’s called hairy bittercress … a big name for a little plant. If you didn’t know what it was capable of, you might even think it’s cute as it has tiny round leaves and can start to bloom when the whole thing is far smaller than a dime.

Don’t let it fool you. It will continue to grow and bloom for weeks with stalks topped by tiny white flowers. If you don’t pull or dig it out before it goes to seed, you’ll be in for a surprise. Once it sets seeds, it arms itself. When the plant is grabbed, the seeds suddenly explode 2 to 3 feet in all directions. Surprise!

Other pests to eliminate as soon as possible are the yellow jackets. The queens have been flying around lately as they search for a good spot to build a nest from which they’ll raise many baby wasps. As Barney Fife would say, “Nip it in the bud!” He’s right. Using one of those far reaching spray cans, walk around your home every few days to check under the eaves. If you spot a wasp nest in the making, give it a good shot of spray. She’ll either move on or croak.

If you haven’t done so already, go ahead and fertilize your lawn. You might want to have it aerated too. Scratch up those bare spots and sprinkle on some lawn seed. Now you should be all set to admire your pretty lawn this summer.

We are finally nearing our normal last frost date which is usually mid-May. Even so, always check the forecast before planting those tender annuals and vegetable starts. I walked through a local garden center recently and noticed a huge table of marigolds. Most of them were black as it had hit 32 the night before.

Now a few words about groundcovers. Most of these plants perform exactly as advertised … they cover a lot of ground. If that’s what you want, OK, but if not, be very careful. So many of them will take over your yard given half a chance. A few that I’ve planted over the years that turned out to be voracious include: snow-on-the-mountain, (aka bishop’s weed), lamium, mint, ajuga, creeping Jenny, and sweet woodruff. As these can’t be trusted near a lawn, plant them in a contained area only.

Once you purchase those tender annuals, take the extra step and harden them off. No doubt, these plants have only lived in a nice warm greenhouse. They need to toughen up a bit if they’re going to survive outdoors. To do this, put them outdoors in a nice protected area for a short time the first day. Then increase the time by an hour or two each day until they’re out there the whole day. By then you should be able to plant them.

We had a very hot and dry summer last year. Sadly, that usually translates to many dead trees and shrubs. If any of yours did not leaf out, they probably succumbed. I guess the best way is to look at it as an opportunity to plant something new.

Hopefully, you’ve been rewarded with hummingbirds at your feeders. The main type we see around here are the calliope type. They are the smallest migrating bird in North America. Pretty amazing for a little guy who weighs about the same as a nickel and somehow manages to fly across the gulf of Mexico both fall and spring.

For those of you living along the river, I saw a sign you might identify with. It just said “Goose … vamoose!” I could say the same thing for moose.

• • •

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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