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Digging in the Dirt: Utility Lines, Bulb Planting

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Q: I’ve bought a home in the Enchanted Hills area and am so excited about planting my barren backyard this coming year. My question: How do I know where the utility lines are? There is a big box near the back of my property but I don’t want to run into any lines or cables while I’m planting. Help! — E.P., Rio Rancho

A: Congratulations on your new home! The first thing you’ll want to do as a responsible homeowner will be to contact the Public Service Company of New Mexico by dialing 811. The utility offers a service that will be invaluable for you. When you call, PNM sends a crew member over to map out utilities that run through your property. You’ll want to take advantage of this free service especially with that big important box so close to your land. Know, too, that if you choose not to map the property and actually run into a line, the fine is substantial. Also you could easily be maimed or killed if the wrong line is interfered with! So be smart, call 811 and a knowledgeable PNM representative will guide you.

Q: I found some big King Alfred daffodil bulbs I stashed in the garage. Can I still plant them now and hope to get actual plants from them? — A.R., Albuquerque

A: If it’s not too cold for you to work outdoor this time of year I’d recommend doing it. There are a couple of things you should think about doing so the bulbs can be as successful as possible. First, feel the bulbs. If they are at all soft, squishy, or stinky, don’t waste your time. They have already failed, and that’s that. Next, make sure the soil is well worked. Roughed up soil will have incorporated oxygen into it, promoting healthy plants. A hard pan area won’t be as fruitful as a tended spot will be. Has the area you want to plant ever had any organic matter added to it? If not, throw down aged manure, milled compost, or garden soil and work that in as you are planting your bulbs. Remember, too, the bulbs need to be planted twice as deep as they are tall. A sturdy daffodil bulb like yours, easily being 3 inches tall, needs to be planted 6 inches deep when you are done. After the bulbs are planted, give the area a good drink. Wet the space thoroughly. Consider sprinkling some perennial flower seed over the area and using the back face of a garden hoe to tamp the soil so the seed is secured but not buried too deeply. If you need a reminder to keep the space sprinkled during the winter months, set out pansy or viola plants. Not only will that be a visual to remind you to keep the bulb/seed planting watered, you’ll have added some cheerful color to your world. So get out there and plant those harbingers of spring.

Q: I’ve placed several cheerfully wrapped poinsettias in the office and all of them are looking bad. What could I be doing wrong? — A.D., Uptown Albuquerque.

A: The problem, more than likely, is the “cheerful wrap” being worn by the points. I’ll bet there is standing water being held by the paper. Meanwhile, the plants have been sitting in a puddle and they hate it. So take the plants to a sink, so you don’t make a mess, and snip away the wrapping paper from the base of the plant. Find some sort of saucer to set the newly drained poinsettias on and I’m confident they will perk back up. This goes for any wrapped plant you see this time of year. Snip away the paper and have a saucer at the ready, especially if you are giving a living plant away. Include a saucer. That makes your gift so much more thoughtful. Happy holidays to you all Digging In.

Need tips on growing your garden? Tracey Fitzgibbon is a certified nurseryman. Send your garden-related questions to Digging In, Rio Rancho/West Side Journal, P.O. Drawer J, Albuquerque, NM 87103.
— This article appeared on page 15 of the Albuquerque Journal

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