Worm castings help keep hanging baskets blooming

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By Cheryl Steenerson

We are safe from frost, so let the planting begin.
It is warm enough for tomatoes, peppers and all sun loving vegetables.
The strawberries are turning red, the iris are in full bloom and this Saturday I open the produce stand. In my book, that’s the beginning of summer.
This is the time of year when my to-do list is at it’s longest. I’m still hardening off tomatoes, which means carrying trays and pots in and out every day, watering takes some time, pruning branches of bushes and trees so that I can mow underneath, laying down mulch, fixing fence, mowing and weed eating and I’m still planting.
I’m not complaining, I loving it. I love to be outside when it’s warm.
The dogs are doing their best to eliminate the excess rabbit population for me. I have the fake owl up and standing guard. My insect and critter arsenal of baby powder and smelly onion and garlic spray are at the ready. Now, if I can just remember to spray my body with chamomile tea before I go out to work, I’d be much happier.
I use chamomile tea to keep from getting bit by mosquitoes and chiggers. They love me. It’s four bags of tea to 2 cups of water. Let it cool and put into a spray bottle that is stored in the refrigerator. The trick is to spray yourself before you get dressed.
Hanging baskets are now decorating porches and the landscape. If you have had trouble keeping your hanging basket blooming well through out the summer, I have a tip or two for you. Get a bag of worm castings and work some into the soil of your hanging basket. It will keep it from drying out so fast.
Anything that is not buried in the ground will dry out much faster than in ground plantings. Push up on your hanging basket and see how light it feels. If it pushes up easily, you need to water. If it takes a little muscle, you’re good. Don’t let your hanging baskets dry out because hundreds of roots will die. You should also use some type of liquid fertilizer every other week.
Remember that the second two numbers on a bottle or bag of fertilizer are the ones that help with roots and blooms. The first number gives you green growth. Please do not just pour on or shovel on the fertilizer with no thought to the amount. It’s a waste of money and it may very well reduce your harvests. A little is good, a lot is not.
Squash growers please grab your aluminum foil now and wrap the stems of your plants. Squash vine borers like the beginning of the season to burrow into the tender stem of your plant and suck it dry. One day your squash plant is beautiful and the next it’s wilted and dying. Don’t let it happen to you.
I have been getting more and more people ask me about raised beds and I tell everyone that they are the way to grow. They help you maintain moisture and control weeds better than field growing. It also reduces insect and critter damage. Just remember to not use any treated wood to make the frame. Cedar is tops, but pine or old barn wood will do. Anything in the wood will leach out into the soil and get sucked up by the roots of the plants.
Now, get going outside and start marking off that To-Do list of yours. Remember how much you enjoyed eating garden goodies in the middle of winter? That should motivate you. I’m off to protect my strawberries. The dogs have suddenly decided to harvest on their own this year. Happy Growing.

Cheryl Steenerson is the gardening columnist for The Anderson News. She can be reached via e-mail at paysteen@shelbybb.net.