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You Can Grow It: Growing beautiful geraniums and planting dates for your garden

Jim Duthie teaches us about geraniums, some of the prettiest and most popular flowers.

We’ll talk about growing beautiful geraniums, and whether or not it’s too early to plant the rest of your garden.

It’s late April, and we’re all anxious to get our flowers and vegetables growing in our gardens. But is it still too early to start planting?

Plus, geraniums are some of the prettiest and most popular flowers for home gardeners. Find out the best way to plant them. Garden master Jim Duthie has the answers and the growing tips on today’s “You Can Grow It.”

Our milder weather has many of you asking if it’s finally safe to plant flowers and vegetables in your garden. The answer is…. yes and no. It’s a perfect time to plant cool weather vegetables, like lettuce, carrots, and cabbage, as well as flowers that will tolerate chilly nights and occasional frost, like pansies.

But for warm weather crops, like tomatoes, squash or green beans, and many flowering plants that don’t tolerate frost, you might want to wait just a little longer. We still have a few weeks to go until we get past the average last day of frost for most locations throughout southern Idaho, at least into about mid May.

One rule of thumb that many Treasure Valley gardeners go by, is to wait until the snow has melted off of Bogus Basin before planting those warm weather crops and flowers. The snow line is getting higher with these warmer days, but it’s still going to be a few weeks before it’s all gone.

The soil also needs to warm up to at least 65 to 70 degrees for successful seed germination, and for the plants to develop and grow well. You can help warm the soil faster by laying down plastic mulch that will attract and hold the heat in the soil. And if you do plant early, be prepared to cover those tender plants with something that will protect them from frost, like hot caps, or walls-of-water, which act like little greenhouses.

In the meantime, you can plant flowers in containers that you can easily move inside in case of a cold snap. Among my favorite container flowers are geraniums. They add a nice burst of color, and they thrive in pots and containers, making them a great option for decks, patios and window boxes.

Geraniums are a favorite among home gardeners because of their attractive leaves and bright colored flowers that bloom throughout the growing season in shades of red, pink, maroon, salmon and even white.

The most popular are zonal geraniums. They’re called zonal, because of the bands, or zones, of color in their leaves. They produce an upright, ball-shaped flower head. These are the ones that you’ll find most readily at garden centers.

Then there are ivy geraniums, with their ivy-like leaves. They’re also called trailing geraniums, and they are best for hanging baskets. Their flowers are a little bit smaller.

There are also scented geraniums. The scent isn’t so much from the flowers, as from the leaves, that may smell like roses, citrus, mint, or various spices. Another variety is the regal, or Martha Washington geranium. It produces the biggest flower heads, often in two-tone colors.

Regardless of the type of geranium, they’re all fairly easy to grow and care for. When you transplant them into a container, use good potting soil. Make sure the pot has good drainage, too, because geraniums won’t tolerate soggy soil.

Dig a hole as deep as the original container, and about twice as wide, and gently firm the soil around it. Then water it in.

After that, water deeply when the soil dries out, about once a week. Apply fertilizer about once a month, and remove any spent flowers to encourage more blooming. Geraniums like about four to six hours of bright sunlight each day, but they’ll appreciate a little shade in the hot afternoons. You can even grow geraniums indoors, as long as they get adequate sunlight.

Most geraniums can grow from one to two feet tall and wide, so give them some room to spread, and you’ll have bright, colorful blooms throughout the summer. And don’t get in too big of a hurry to put those frost-sensitive plants out, at least for another couple of weeks.

And here’s something that will help you get started with your growing season. The U of I master gardener plant sale is coming up on Saturday, May 4th, from 9 to noon, at the Ada County Extension Office on Glenwood Street near Hawks Stadium. You’ll find houseplants, vegetables, flowering plants, gardening advice and much more.

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