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WHAT’S BLOOMIN’

Gardening column: Tackle-box scale has double use

Use it to weigh a hanging basket to see whether the plant needs watering.

Friday, May 24, 2013 - 12:01 am

I love garden tips such as this clever one on how to easily tell if your hanging basket needs watering:

Purchase a scale for weighing fish from a place that sells fishing gear or, if you have a fisherman in the family, raid his or her tackle box. These gadgets come with hooks at both ends and will usually have a weight capacity of up to 75 pounds.

Hang the basket on the scale and make a mental note of what the scale says when the planter is well-watered. If it weighs less when you check it, you'll know you need to go for the watering can. (This tip is from Garden Gate eNotes.)

Tips and new ideas make gardening fresh and fun — but we still need the practical reminders — so here are a few to help in case you have questions about what to do with spring bulbs and other plants in your garden:

•Do not cut off the foliage on daffodils, tulips, snowflakes and other hardy bulbs until the foliage has turned yellow and died back. This usually happens by the beginning of June, and the the foliage can be pulled at that time.

•A good time to divide and replant spring flowering bulbs is after the foliage dies back completely. Dig the bulbs with a spading fork and separate them. You can plant them right away or store them until fall. If you want to store them, let them air dry by layering them on a shallow tray, then place them in mesh bags like those your potatoes or onions come in. Store in a cool, dark, well-ventilated area until planting time.

•It's best not to prune peony bushes back after they bloom as this can cause problems for the next season. They need their foliage for photosynthesis and flower bud production. A better idea would be to divide and move them if they are crowding other plants. Do this in late August or early September.

•Resist the temptation to prune your lilacs. There is a small window of opportunity to do this right after the blooms have faded — but if you miss doing it at that time, the shrub will be setting buds for next year. Pruning will cut them off, and there will be no bloom or very little bloom the next spring. So, rather than prune the whole shrub, you can tidy up the plant by snipping off the faded blooms anytime.

•When you purchase transplants, such as tomatoes, peppers or annual flowers, some of them will have already begun to bloom and/or have little peppers and tomatoes growing. After transplanting, snip off the buds and fruit because the plant needs to become established and grow lots of healthy green foliage before it goes into seed-making mode. If you do not do this, you will notice that the plant struggles to grow, and you will have less fruit and flowers as a result.

•When purchasing transplants, always look for plants with stocky, stout stems and unblemished green foliage. These healthy plants will adapt themselves more readily to the garden.

•If you go to a nursery or greenhouse to purchase plants and see insects crawling on the plants or hopping and flying around (these can be aphids, white flies, spider mites), do not buy your plants there. Also, if you notice plants have chewed spots and dead or yellowing leaves, this also indicates pests or disease, and you need to go elsewhere to purchase your plants.

Jane Ford is an Advanced Master Gardener. Email questions to jaf701@frontier.com. This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel.