Spring temps make green thumbs here come alive

Published 12:11 am Tuesday, April 1, 2003

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Spring.
It's that time of the year again when green-thumbed gardeners itch to dig their shovels into the ground, turn the soil upside down, plant flowers and make their garden a nice place to spend spring and summer.
Tim Polega, owner of God's Green Earth nursery on South 11th Street, advises that now is a good time to start doing things in the garden.
He said from now through mid-April, people can start fertilizing trees, bushes and perennials, but it's important to use a good fertilizer.
Polega recommends a fertilizer called 12/12/12, but there are several others to choose from, including organic and compost fertilizers.
Fertilizing strawberries, however, will have to wait until June, he said.
Polega said people who have fruit trees can also start spraying them, as well as vines, with fruit tree spray as the buds start to swell.
In the garden, it's also a good time to cut back overwintering perennials, including ornamental grasses, mums, black-eyed susans and coneflowers, he said.
He warns that it is important, however, to find out the inside color of a branch before completely cutting it off.
Cutting off a branch that is brown on the inside indicates that branch is dead, but if the branch is green or red inside, the branch is still alive and should not be cut off, he said.
Gardeners can rearrange some plants at this time. Polega indicated that now is in general an OK time to move roses and perennials around.
For those who want to get an early start on the planting season, Polega said it's possible to plant bare-root strawberries, perennials and asparagus.
It's also safe to plant some annuals such as pansies and snap dragons, he said.
Though it may be tempting on a nice warm day to start other annuals, Polega said it's safest to plant them after May 10.
Polega said it's also possible to de-thatch and plug the lawn before applying the first lawn application that includes a pre-emergent herbicide.
De-thatching the lawn basically means giving the lawn a hard raking with a regular grass rake, although it is possible to rent a power de-thatcher, he said.
Polega said the lawn plugging is done to give the grass more space to grow in and is done by taking small chunks of grass out of the lawn using a plugger.
Pluggers can also be rented from most places that rent out power tools, he said.
It's not only plants, trees and grass however, that need care and attention this time of the year.
Polega, who has several fish tanks at his nursery, said people can now turn the water back on in their own fish ponds.
It's important, however, not to feed the fish until the water temperature reaches 50-degrees F and stays that temperature or above consistently, he said.
Polega said if fish are fed when the temperature is below 50-degrees F, the food remains in the fish's stomach and rots, eventually causing the fish to die.
Spring brings green grass and early flowers, but looking out at their lawn and plant beds, gardeners also may see ugly bulges and holes usually hidden until the snow melts and the earth warms up.
Reviving their pond fish may be a welcome challenge, but few welcome another garden dweller, the mole.