I hope that those of you who covered, mulched or mounded plants have uncovered them so the spring sun can warm the soil and they can begin to emerge.

Keeping them covered in winter so they don’t unthaw is good but continues to keep them cold much longer in spring. It is time for them to wake up!

If you live with trees around your gardens, try to get the leaves off as soon as possible, especially off early blooming plants like bulbs.

Spring cleanup is still pretty much all that can be done outside right now until the ground dries sufficiently. Remember, walking on wet soil in the garden compresses it and can harm the root structure and health of your plants. It is so hard after a winter like we have had not to run right in there and get started. But, be just a little more patient.

For those of you who just can’t stand the wait – and there are many, I know, I am one – think containers. Many, many of the greenhouses just await your arrival. The plants are ready. And with containers, if a cold night is coming you can simply pick them up and bring them in. Then, out they go the next morning back into the sunshine.

There are so many new plants this year that a list of them would fill pages. But I do have a few suggestions for those who like to try new things each year.

Sweet potato vines (small photo at bottom of column) have been around for a while and many people are familiar with the regular green, chartreuse and burgundy colors that look so wonderful growing together. I discovered the one in the photo earlier this spring (February actually) in the greenhouse at Longfellow’s under a bench covered with orchids. Any gardener knows that February is actually about 80 days long and never ends, no matter what nonsense the calendar shows. So, this vine with various shades of pink, peach and cream came home. I went to the cellar, dug out some stored patio dahlia bulbs, found an empty pot – and voila. As I write this on April 15, the dahlias are setting blooms and the vines are beginning to vine. By the middle of May, the pot will be filled with flowers and the vines will have covered the sides. Sometimes, you just can’t wait!

Sweet potato vines take full, hot summer sun as long as they are watered; and if pinched every now and then, they will stay fuller as opposed to just hanging down.

Many of the geraniums have responded splendidly to the increased light and are putting up a show waiting to get outside. If you like geraniums, try some apple blossom geraniums this summer. I had several last summer and they are gorgeous. They come in lots of colors, bloom all summer (and have bloomed all winter inside my house) and are very hardy. Make sure their pots have drain holes because they don’t tolerate wet conditions.

Proven Winners plant line has introduced a new mini petunia that looks like it would be better suited to containers than the new huge ones. It mounds up and gets about 6 to 10 inches high. They come in solid colors like purple and in veined varieties such as purple centers and veins on white. I am not a petunia lover but these look quite lovely.

There is also a new Baby’s Breath called “Gypsy Deep Rose.” It grows only 10 inches tall and a bit wider and would make a lovely container plant. But remember, it needs to be in light, very well drained soil so match its needs to other plants with it. It likes full sun.

Containers can do lots more than sit on the porch, though. Plan some fairly tall ones and they will fill holes in the perennial bed when plants like lilies have gone by. The same holds true if you haven’t overplanted bulbs. A pot of color will do nicely to fill in the gap. Don’t forget to plant herbs. If you are a cook and like to use fresh herbs, growing them in containers allows you to bring them in for the winter and still make use of them.

If you are planting big containers, like half whiskey barrels, save your back and a lot of potting soil by putting several plastic soda bottles in the bottom. They take up space, provide a place for drainage and the plant roots will grow right around them. Make sure they have covers or their openings are pointed downward, so they don’t fill with water and add weight.

Until next time, watch for the hummers who will be returning soon, listen for the peepers and start visiting those nurseries and greenhouses. Get out those pots, clean them up and ready, set, go. Spring is here!

Jody Goodwin has been gardening for more than 20 years. She lives in Turner with her husband, Ike, her two dogs and two cats. Readers may write to her in care of the Sun Journal, 104 Park St., Lewiston, Maine, 04243-4400 or by e-mail at [email protected]

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