MY GARDEN PATH: Bring on that sunshine!

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ELAINE CERNY/Special to The Press My favorite pink iris is called Social Event.

With all the warm weather we’ve had lately, most of you are probably about done with your spring planting. Of course, if you’re anything like me, you can always find a spot to try something new.

Be sure to get any pruning done on your lilac bushes very soon as there is only a one-month window in which to do it. That means one month after blooming. Any done after that will cut off next year’s flower buds.

Gladiolas need to be planted soon in order to have blooms by mid-summer. In order to extend their bloom season, you might want to try this. Divide your bulbs into three groups. Plant group one now, group two in two weeks and group three two weeks after that one.

Another trick that works is a way to shorten those tall gangly chrysanthemum blooms. Cut a third off each plant now, then another third in early July. An easy way to remember this is by the holidays. The first pruning is done around Memorial Day and the last one is done about the Fourth of July.

With summer come mosquitoes. To cut down and maybe even eliminate the chances of being bitten in your yard, you need to walk around and dump out any standing water. Do this every few days. Remember, it doesn’t have to rain for water to collect. Sprinklers will do the same thing. Mosquitoes can go from water-covered eggs to flying adults in only one week.

We “lucked out” recently by missing the hail in Post Falls. It did hit as close by as Liberty Lake. I would have been crying crocodile tears if it had shown up and shredded all my iris flowers. Not so damaging is the occasional graupel. From a distance this looks like hail, but on closer inspection it is different. Instead of being a hard ball of ice, graupel is formed by rain drops surrounding a snowflake.

If you didn’t get a chance to cut those dead raspberry canes last fall, do it now. Cut them to the ground as they are done producing. Tie some tall stakes to the new canes as they are probably as tall as you are already … maybe taller. Sprinkle some fertilizer around the root area. Plain old lawn fertilizer will do the trick.

When planting strawberries, there are a few steps to take. First of all, soak the roots in water for an hour. Then go ahead and plant them, being sure to keep the crowns at ground level. Full sun is best. They should only be fertilized in August.

If you’re still waiting to plant those very tender vegetables such as peppers, squash and tomatoes, you should safely be able to do that now. As always, keep an eye on the weather. If a cold night approaches, be sure to cover those “sissy” plants.

Now that peonies are in bloom again, I’m reminded of that old wives tale about them “needing” ants in order to bloom. Wrong. The ants are only there to eat the honeydew which the aphids are secreting. A strong spray of water will wash off the aphids. With them gone, the ants will pull up stakes too.

My foxgloves are blooming now. As a lot of you know, they are the source of a valuable heart medication called digitalis. Foxgloves are biennials, which means they take two years to bloom. Once you get some established, you will have enough in different life stages to enjoy flowers every year.

A friend recently told me an interesting story. Someone was offering her some flower seeds. She questioned the giver about them and was told that maybe they won’t bloom well for you, but they were guaranteed to keep away the elephants. How could you pass up an offer like that?

• • •

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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