Good morning! It is so nice to be saying that yet again, for many reasons. It means it is finally spring – and I think each and every one of us should congratulate ourselves on surviving winter. I thought those snowbanks would never go away. But, as always, in spite of our human cynicism, Mother Nature pulled through.

Daffodils have blessed us with their wonder, pansies are showing their smiles and forsythia are making even the darkest corners light up with bright yellow. The songbirds are back and it is wonderful just to listen.

It was a tough winter on us, but it was a winter gardeners will appreciate.

In case some of you haven’t ventured into the dirt yet, there was no frost in the ground. So we basically missed mud season this year, and the plants are already zooming since the soil is warming so quickly.

Since there was no frost, my usual warnings of not getting into the garden while the soil is still wet don’t hold this year. Instead, at least at my house, cleanup is being pushed as fast as possible. I have daffodils blooming and they are still surrounded by piles of dead oak leaves. Getting leaves off 2-inch plants is much more difficult than getting it off bare ground.

Today’s column is going to be bits of this and that since lots of things have happened over the past few months that you should all know about.

Look for that 0 in the middle

• A new law went into effect Jan. 1 that discourages the use of lawn fertilizers containing phosphorus. The state, rather than ban the sale of fertilizer containing phosphorus, has chosen to educate people about phosphorus and its negative effects on lakes and streams. When you buy fertilizers, you will notice posted signs explaining the new law and why phosphorus can be so damaging to the environment.

First, you need to know that overall Maine soils are rich in phosphorus so adding more in most situations is simply not necessary. Second, organic fertilizers are much better for your lawns and gardens. They are much lower in phosphorus, and the phosphorus they contain comes naturally in the product as opposed to being chemically added. Plants grown with compost and/or manure are much healthier and less prone to disease and insect infestation than plants with chemicals.

When you buy products such as bagged compost, manure or fertilizers, there are three numbers on the front. The first number indicates the amount of nitrogen in the product, the second indicates phosphorus and the last is potash. So let’s think about those rivers and streams when we buy products this gardening season and look for ones that have a 0 in the middle. If each of us makes a dent in our phosphorus use, it could add up to a big change in the health of our water.

• For those of you trying to help environmentally and take part in some “green” activity, try Project Budburst. It is a perfect activity for everyday gardeners like us. It was started in February of this year and is about citizen gardeners around the world tracking climate change. A database has been created so information about when plants bud, leaf out and flower can be recorded. Project scientists will use this information to get a picture of how global warming is affecting various regions. A consortium of 70 universities is undertaking the project. Simply Goggle Project Budburst to sign up if you are interested.

• Some “do not forgets” for spring: Get your summer flowering bulbs in the ground after the middle of the month. Dahlias, cannas and calla lilies will not put up green until after the last threat of frost, so it is safe to plant them after May 15. The soil should be warm enough by then and the two-week head start will get you flowers that bloom much more quickly. The last full moon of May is on the 20th so if you plant your tender plants after that, you should be safe. I tend to believe that the old ways were based on experience and common sense, so I keep them in mind. Since there should be no frost after the last full moon of May, you should be safe – but that doesn’t mean you should stop listening to the weather forecast, especially for nighttime lows. If it is going to be a close call, cover those impatiens and other plants that won’t tolerate cold temps. If you do cover plants, do not use plastic because it will burn them. Instead use newspapers, old sheets or material of any kind.

This is the time of year when it is easiest to build your soil. Once the soil warms, give your beds a good weeding and then add compost, about 2 inches around your plants. Keep it back from the stems by a few inches. The rain and worms will work it into the ground throughout the season, it will keep the weeding to a minimum and it will help retain moisture so you don’t have to water as often.

This is also the time to prune forsythia, weigela, spirea and other spring-blooming shrubs. This should be done as soon as they are finished blooming, and don’t forget to fertilize them for nice growth throughout the season. Prune for form and remove old wood each year and any branches growing crosswise of the majority. You should cut any dead canes out of hydrangeas once the leaves appear. The same goes for roses.

If you have fall flowering plants that need to be divided, spring is the time. This is also a good time for many summer flowering plants to be subdivided and transplanted like daylilies, daisies, cone flowers and most mounding plants. If you notice that your daffodils are not blooming as profusely this spring, it is probably time to dig up the bulbs and separate them. Mark these plants for fall digging and replanting. And speaking of spring-blooming bulbs, don’t forget to let the foliage brown before removing it. This is where the bulbs get their strength to bloom again next year.

Until next time, watch for the hummers who should be arriving for the summer. Don’t forget to do something special for mom next weekend. Plan a few day trips with gardening friends as most of the nurseries are having open houses on Mother’s Day weekend. And get your supply of bug spray. They will be here before you know it – yuck!

Happy gardening.

Jody Goodwin has been gardening for more than 25 years. She lives in Turner with her husband, Ike, her two dogs and two cats. She can be reached by writing to her in care of the Sun Journal, 104 Park St., Lewiston, Maine, 04243-4400 or by e-mail at [email protected]

Don’t forget the Home, Garden & Flower Show from May 16-18 at the Fryeburg Fair Grounds. It was a great show last year with lots of fun products to look at and great plants, and it is supposed to be even bigger this year. For more information, call 800-359-2033.

Also on May 18, the McLaughlin Garden in Paris will offer a two-hour workshop on planting containers and window boxes with unique plants for the “wow” factor. It will be from 4 to 6 p.m. You need to preregister by calling 743-8820.

Green tip

This growing season, I am going to try to give out some “green” tips for making things a little better environmentally. If anyone has some good ideas on how to reuse or do without or unique ways to do things, please e-mail me. I will be happy to share your ideas with readers.

Here’s one to start:

I know that many of you use mail-order plants and bulbs. Well, I discovered a company this winter called Bluestone Perennials. I guess I am just behind because many gardening folks seem to know about it already. But I got my plants and they were green, healthy and in great shape. The costs were not terrible either which I have found to be the case with many.

But, the best thing, is Bluestone Perennials’ packaging.

This family business in Ohio explains in its literature that its packaging is as green as it can make it and still get plants to you in good shape. But in order to help the environment a little bit more, the company will take the packaging back. Bluestone Perennials sends you a shipping label, so you just take your plants out (the weight), put all the packaging back in the box, tape it and put the label on. Take it to the post office, UPS or wherever. It cost me $2.42 to send it back and Bluestone Perennials sent me a receipt for free shipping on my next order. That free shipping is worth about $16 and all that packaging won’t go into the waste stream. Good deal from all sides.

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