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CAROL'S CORNER - Current Observations for the month......
Rain, wind and snow continue, so it must be Spring. We should be seeing a few crocus soon. And May will bring the tulips and daffs. We did get outside on a few warm days to begin the chore of cleaning up dog stuff. Found some deer stuff in the yard, too. Right alongside a few chomped remnants of iris and bellflower; now they really liked that bellflower. Right to the ground they liked it But I'm glad the deer prefer the bellflower to my iris.

Iris cleanup and weeding will be the major chores as the month progresses. I don't trim mine in the fall as some good gardeners do, so there's plenty of trimming and clean-up in the spring. Working in some compost or other fertilizer will be helpful for later bloom. Be careful when working around the iris plants to avoid damaging the rhizomes.

Not much soil activity takes place until the soil warms up to about 40 degrees, so as the iris plants begin to grow they rely heavily on nutrients stored in the rhizome the previous year. Most growth occurs above ground as the plant produces leaves and flowers. New iris roots develop as the bloom stalks begin to swell in the fans. These new roots will help supply nutrients for new growth during and after bloom. The old roots will die and wither away. During approximately six to eight weeks after bloom the rhizome stores much of the food it will need for the next spring's growth, initiates increase buds and sets new bloom stalk buds. While iris do need to be fed from time to time, it is essential that fertilizing be done early in the spring so the fertilizer can be broken down into forms the plants can use. The finest quality of bloom is developed in richer soil, but be careful as the soft growth that too much food produces is more susceptible to the dreaded root
rot. So I lean toward a little, not a lot of feeding. For most of us a 5-10-10 or 6-10-6 commercial fertilizer will work quite well. Organic based fertilizers are also available in various formulations or you can mix your own. Iris does need calcium, too.

Now, for the fun stuff. Starting seed indoors can be very rewarding this time of year. I've compiled a start up list for our area, based on our average last frost. When I put this together several years ago, our average last frost was May 27th in Missoula and May 24th in Hamilton. Generally we have about 111 frost free days. The dates are weeks before last frost:
7 weeks ahead or about 4/8:
Broccoli out
Lettuce out
Zinnia seed in
Dwarf marigold seed in
Basil seed in
Glad bulbs in pots
Dahlia bulbs in pots


4 weeks ahead or about 4/29:

Cabbage plants out
Radish seed out
Restart tomato seed inside
     if the whiteflies get them
Lettuce out
Squash in
Pumpkin in
Basil in
Restart pepper seed inside if
     whiteflies get them
Cantaloupe in
Corn inside in peat pots
Cosmos inside
Green beans inside
6 weeks ahead or about 4/15:
Lettuce out
Spinach out
Onions out
Radish out
Tall marigolds in
Alyssium in
Cabbage seed out
Peas out
Carrot seed out
5 weeks ahead or about 4/22:
Beets out
Potatoes out
Melon inside
Swiss chard out
More lettuce out for a staggered crop
Calendula in

Talk to you next month.
Carol Addeo