MY GARDEN PATH: These long days are great!

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ELAINE CERNY/Special to The Press One of my early clematis vines is called The President.

Here we are already to the official First Day of Summer: the 21st. This is also the longest day of the year. As fast as time seems to fly, we’d better enjoy it while we can.

Do you have squirrels living in your yard? I do and I’d rather not if given a choice. I don’t care how cute they are, to me they are just pests. They get into the bird feeders and scare off the songbirds. If that isn’t bad enough, they will chew to enlarge the openings in the birdhouses and then reach in and grab the baby birds, which they eat. Ugh!

Because squirrels can jump such distances, it’s recommended that bird feeders be placed 5 to 6 feet from trees, buildings or anything else they can launch from. Some experts even recommend mixing 10 pounds of birdseed with 1 tablespoon of cayenne pepper. This will turn off the squirrels, but the birds don’t even taste it.

While we’re on the subject of critters, let’s talk about deer. People are always asking me to write about deer-proof plants. Unfortunately, there are very few that deer will NEVER eat. Your best bet is to go with those that are hairy, waxy, fuzzy or have a strong smell. These are usually safe, but with deer, they’ll try to eat anything if they’re hungry enough. Another trick to try is hanging old CDs from a tree branch nearby. They don’t like shiny things, especially those that move in the breeze.

As far as fences go, the taller the better. Another trick you can use is to plant a hedge alongside the fence. They can jump high, but not wide. One last thing, if you want to use a spray to deter them, there’s one called “Not Tonight, Deer.”

OK, enough wildlife. Let’s get back to the fun of growing things. By now, most of you have all your planting done. What? You don’t? Me neither … I always manage to find something else to try.

Be sure to fertilize those potted plants about every two weeks, especially the flowering ones. Use a fertilizer with a high middle number. If you use one with a night first number (meaning nitrogen), you’ll soon have only leaves.

To keep your lawn looking good, and the envy of the neighborhood, it will need an occasional dose of lawn fertilizer and regular watering. Set your sprinklers to go on either very early in the morning or wait until evening. No sense watching all that water evaporate while your water bill soars.

Once the hot weather arrives, change that mower to a higher setting. A closely mowed lawn won’t do well when the heat shows up.

While we’re on the topic of lawns, I need to mention crane flies. These critters look like mosquitoes on steroids as they’re huge. People sometimes refer to them as “mosquito eaters.” Don’t we wish … they don’t eat mosquitoes or anything else as they don’t have the physical ability to do so. Their only mission in life is to lay some eggs on your lawn from which little grubs will hatch and chew on the grass.

Keep an eye on those berry producing plants and bushes. They will need some fertilizer and extra water to grow those juicy berries for you. The same goes for those garden veggie crops. Why is it that peas, etc., taste best right off the vine and never make it to the house?

Here’s some advice from a ladybug: “spot” new opportunities, be well-rounded and don’t let the small things bug you!

• • •

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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