Sure bets for gambling gardeners

Carla Allen
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You may have been able to get into your perennial beds earlier than ever before this year, but that doesn't change the elemental rule - one that experienced gardeners fully realize but are sorely tempted to ignore: Don't put annuals out until the danger of frost has passed in mid-May.

Pansy transplants are safe to put outside, but hold off on most other annuals until mid-May.Carla Allen photo

I've had several people ask me if it's okay to plant them outside now, considering we've had such a warm spring to date.

How lucky do you feel? It's possible that we won't receive any more cold snaps, but highly unlikely. Cold winds can do just as much damage as frost.

If you can make monitoring the weather an essential part of your day and are prepared to cover and protect any tender plants that you place outside now, then go for it.

Transplants that are fine to install now include potted heaths and heathers, shrubs and trees, and pansies. Just hold off a little while longer for impatiens, petunias, geraniums and/or anything else you see blooming in a nice warm greenhouse.

There are plenty of other gardening chores you can do meanwhile. There's always the lawn to mow - I did mine on April 25, the earliest I can ever remember, and it should have been done a week earlier.

There's whippersnipping, lawn raking, and perennial bed clean-up that must be done. That includes cutting back the old stems and hauling out weeds before they have a chance to multiply. It's still not too late to divide perennials, though that ideal window of opportunity will close by the end of the first week in May. Bark mulch can be applied now as well to really get a head start on weed suppression.

Have you pruned your roses? Fed them bone meal? How about your blue hydrangeas?

It's also okay to fill up containers with potting soil and plant them with summer bulbs. These blooms have become a highlight for my summers, especially dahlias, acidenthera and crocosmia. The flowers are beautiful but even the foliage is attractive and the pots are so easy to move to various areas for instant beautification during special events.

Meanwhile, visit the greenhouses to see what's arriving and start taking notes. The full-out gardening season is just around the corner.

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