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Be careful treating to control critters

Tracey FitzgibbonDear readers: Last week I answered a question dealing with the troubles an East Mountain gardener was having with creatures (not moles) eating all of the hard work she’d done in her garden.

It may be too early to plant an Easter lily outside. (Journal)

I received an email from another reader cautioning me to warn you all about the hazards treatments can poise to birds of prey and other creatures hunting underground critters.

Hopefully anyone treating for gophers, prairie dogs and other underground dwellers realizes that any “poison” put out needs to be put underground, in their tunnels and pathways, not scattered above ground.

If treated properly the underground critter should pass away underground, keeping the above ground creatures safer, so to speak. It is challenging getting the poison to the underground creatures, but that’s how the treatment is meant to work.

So please, don’t scatter any poison above ground. Hunting underground dwellers is an art, and all cautions and instructions on the “treatment” packaging must be followed to the letter in order to be taken by the underground creature keeping the above ground creatures, hopefully, safer. Thanks.

Q. I received the most beautiful Easter lily today and want to know if I can plant it in my garden? – H.G.K., Albuquerque

A. Good news for you!

Yes, you’ll be able to plant the lily in your garden, but not just yet.

Go ahead and enjoy the blooming of the lily indoors for the time being. Then later this season – much later – go ahead and get it into your garden.

Meanwhile, you’ll want to care for the lily like you would any indoor houseplant. If the pot holding the lily is in a decorative paper wrapper or a container that doesn’t drain, you must fix that. Cut the paper wrapping away all around the bottom, leaving the “sleeve” intact for prettiness’s sake, then set the container on a saucer to collect the water you’ll be offering the plant to keep it healthy.

If the lily came to you in a decorative nondraining pot you need to get it out of that one and put into a container that drains.

In a nondraining container the plant will effectively drown. Left alone the plant will start to yellow, signaling a lack of water and us, being human, will offer it more water. Meanwhile the plant’s roots become water-logged not having access to much needed oxygen, the plant keels over and you’re left with a soggy mess.

So fix that aspect and most of your concerns will be over. Then treat the lily as you would a loved houseplant.

Never allow it to dry out completely, keeping the soil just barely moist. The foliage should look stiff and firm, not limp and lifeless. As the blooms fade, using the sharpest scissors you have, snip them off the stalk as cleanly as possible without maiming the main stalk.

Keep your lily indoors, under your vigilant care, and once you’re confident we’ve had our last frost – usually late this month – get it into your garden.

Now remembering that lilies are fairly tall, I’d look for a spot in the garden that will offer a certain amount of protection so it’s not buffeted by strong winds.

The lily will want/need a fair amount of sunlight too. Perhaps not blazing hot sun all day, every day, but none the less sunlight.

When you plant the lily outside be sure to keep the root mass at the same depth. You can plant it a wee bit deeper, as a stabilizing factor, just not too deep. I would sprinkle some super phosphate into the hole before setting the planting to offer the lily a helping hand.

If all goes right in its world it’ll finish refeeding itself and go dormant, waiting until next spring to come back and reward you with a new series of those beautiful white trumpet blooms.

So yes, you will be able to get the lily into your garden, but for the time being, keep it healthy and enjoy those marvelously scented, gloriously blooms.

Happy Easter while you are out there Diggin’ In!

Tracey Fitzgibbon is a certified nurseryman. Send garden-related questions to Digging In, Albuquerque Journal, 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109, or to features@abqjournal.com.

 

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