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Time is ripe for planting

May 25, 2004|by HEATHER C. SMATHERS

heathers@herald-mail.com

Neither the recent heat nor the threat of cicadas should deter homeowners from planting their gardens as usual, local experts say.

May and June are the perfect months to plant annuals and ground coverings, said Cameron Beaver, garden center associate at Snavely's Garden Corner in Hagerstown.

"The soil needs to be warm enough for plants to adapt to their new environment, so May is a great time to begin planting," Beaver said.

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Taking soil type into consideration is important when deciding what plants to buy, Beaver said. Plants that are placed in good soil are more likely to be full and healthy. The chance of disease also diminishes with proper soil, she said.

The second half of the battle is planting new annuals in their recommended locations, Beaver said. Many plants available at local nurseries have tags indicating where to place them in the garden.

"The proper plant in the proper spot makes all the difference," Beaver said. "If the tag suggests a shady location, the plant won't survive in direct sun."

In the Tri-State area, Beaver recommends planting cosmos, salvia and snapdragons. Herbs also are an excellent way to add color and interest to a flower bed, she said.

"And as an added bonus, you can eat them," Beaver said.

Having a plan for taking care of a new garden is important, said Ellen Nibali, horticulture phone consultant with the Home and Garden Information Center at the Maryland Cooperative Extension Service.

"People should know how they are going to care for their new garden before they plant," she said.

Some details gardeners frequently forget when planting are to use the proper amount of mulch, to keep their plants somewhat separate from each other to allow for air and water circulation, and to weed often, Nibali said.

Gardeners with flower beds and vegetable gardens have no reason to worry about the onslaught of cicadas, Beaver said. Female cicadas are known to eat sap from newly planted trees and shrubs. To prevent that, Beaver suggested waiting until early autumn to plant trees and shrubs.

Nibali said female cicadas will lay their eggs in twigs the size of pencils, so young trees and shrubs are great locations for nesting. She suggested covering young trees and shrubs with gauze or mesh to keep female cicadas out.

Choosing the right flowers and vegetables for gardens can make a difference this growing season. Beaver recommended checking with local garden centers and nurseries for advice on what plants will fare the best and other tips to keep gardens lush and insect-free throughout the summer.

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