9-1-1 for Slackers… Get your Garden Summer-Worthy in a Rush

FLORENCE — It happens every year.

You hear the hum of your neighbor's lawn mower and smell the mulch … and that sinking feeling returns. It's almost Mother's Day and your yard is not only dead, but downright depressing

Don't despair, for getting the backyard garden ready for quick summer display doesn't take a fat wallet or a lot of time. What it does take is a little creativity … and maybe a little cheating.

"First thing you've got to do is just get out there, rake and clean up," advises Anne Ellington, owner of Flower Basket in Ludlow. "Clean up the obvious debris, pull up what's dead from last year and get your flower beds ready. Turn them over, take care of the early weeds… and don't forget to fertilize. You should fertilize at least once a month, but I do it every other week."

One fun way to be garden friendly in a flash is to take an organic approach. Nate Tanamachi, manager of Worm's Way in Florence has one word to garden slackers: compost.

"If you don't have your own compost ready to use, you need to get some right away and start mixing it in the soil before you do anything else," he said.

Tanamachi suggests getting the garden and yard ready with organics because they are more environment and family-friendly.

"Organic gardening is something that's really catching on in this area," he said.

Once the soil is healthy and happy, it's time to do a little planning. The National Gardening Association ( http://www.garden.org ) suggests mapping out the lay of the land, keeping in mind your natural landscaping obstacles (rocks, trees, shrubs) and your own energy level for maintenance. Sure, you may want the "Bam!" of fabulous roses or big showy dinner plate dahlias, but do you have the time?

"Just about any of the annuals available now are easy and should work fine once your yard is ready," said Ellington. "People always say you should wait till after Mother's Day, but the seasons are so much warmer now, so I'd say go right ahead."

Easy flowers that quickly look fabulous are geraniums, marigolds and begonias (for sunnier spots) and impatiens (shadier areas). Because of her busy schedule, Ellington plants perennials (think hosts for shade) and uses container gardens with easy annuals for quick pops of color.

Tanamachi takes another approach by quickly creating raised flowerbeds to add depth and interest to the overall garden.

"We sell kits here that you can put together, but if you are going to do it yourself remember, no railroad ties, no railroad lumber, no treated lumber… (Much) of that treated lumber is treated with arsenic and other toxins that are really harmful to plants."

Another way to create instant eye appeal is to go European in your yard and mix in vegetables with your flowers. Cool lettuces and spinach are perfect to plant this time of year, Tanamachi notes.

Before you finish planting, try to find a spot for at least one variety of ornamental grass. According to Fernlea Flowers‘ website ( ) newer varieties of ornamental grass are easy to care for and add interesting texture to even the dullest landscape. Try Pennisetum Rubrum (Purple Fountain Grass) or Calamagrostis "Karl Foerster" (Feather Reed Grass) in the early summer garden. Both will make your yard stand out with professional poise (without the work) and look great right up until it's time for pumpkins. Both are available at better garden stores.

For the finishing touch, truly surprise visitors with a pleasant aroma as well as eye appeal. The National Garden Association suggests mixing in herbs like basil, mint, sage and rosemary with highly scented varieties of English lavender and lovely scented geraniums. All are available on their website.

In any event, don't panic. It's only a few months until Labor Day ... when you start worrying about raking leaves.


If you have your flowerbeds ready to go for the post-Mother's Day rush, here are some other tips for gardeners in the Northern Kentucky area (from the National Garden Association, http://www.garden.org .)

Plant Lilies

Dozens of new lily types have become available in the last decade, with a wide range of colors and markings, plus heights ranging from only 18 or so inches tall to over five feet. Many of them also are deliciously fragrant and make great cut flowers. Lilies grow best in deep, well-drained soil that has plenty of organic matter incorporated. Plant lily bulbs eight inches deep.

Tend Herbs

Prune lavenders and sage back to four to six inches to encourage new growth. Trim off dead growth from thymes and other woody herbs. Plant out cool-season herb transplants, such as parsley and chives. Seed of cilantro can be sown now outdoors. Start tender herbs like basil from seed; do not plant outdoors until all frost danger is past. Harvest and enjoy early-growing herbs like chervil, chives, and parsley.

Spray Fruit Trees

For best production, control sap-sucking insects, such as aphids and mealy bugs, with horticultural oil when blossom buds start to show green.

Make More Dahlias

Think ahead to late summer and having a spectacular planting of those dinner-plate-size dahlia flowers. An easy way to have plenty of plants is to purchase the roots now, plant in a pot and grow indoors in bright light. When new shoots reach about six inches, cut them off near the base, dust the cut ends in rooting powder, and place them in moist potting soil. Cuttings will root in several weeks. Grow in six-inch pots until frost danger has passed, then plant outdoors.

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