It's Time to ...

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If you have dense clusters of lettuce seedlings needing thinning, usea butter knife or chopstick to carefully loosen each seedling down to the root. (iStockphoto.com)

Refresh houseplants. It's warm enough to move houseplants outdoors to the deck, patio or a bare spot in the garden. Even if you can only garden indoors, take time to check each plant to see what "refreshment" - repotting, fertilizing, pruning - is needed. If roots reach through drain holes, transplant to a container three to six inches larger in diameter. Add enough fresh potting soil in the bottom and sides, positioning the plant's soil surface to be at the same level as in the previous container. Water well, using a water-soluble houseplant fertilizer and following the directions on the label. Prune any dead stems. Put plants in partial shade at first, allowing them to adjust to the outdoors. In a week or two, move those requiring more light to a sunny location. Check daily for watering needs.

Tend lettuce seedlings. I planted lettuce seeds directly in the ground and now have dense clusters of seedlings that need thinning to allow more room for good growth. If this sounds familiar and you'd rather not sacrifice even one seedling, use a butter knife or chopstick to carefully loosen each seedling down to the root. Transplant to a new location in sun or partial shade where you've already prepped the soil.

Search and destroy poison ivy. The long, hard winter didn't faze poison ivy, and vines are already in full leaf. Although I prefer organic practices, I went to my favorite hardware store and found a spray specific to poison ivy that won't kill anything else. A big surprise this year is the many seedlings sprouting all through the garden. You'll know it by the two "first" leaves with a burgundy blush, followed by the tiny "true" leaf that bears the characteristic three lobes. You can pull by hand, but if you're sensitive to it, first cover your hand with a small plastic bag. Remove the seedling slowly so you get it out, roots and all. Grab the open end of the bag and pull it inside-out so your hand never touches the plant. Drop the bag into the trash.

 


Patricia Schrieber is director of education for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) (www.phsonline.org), and co-owner of Valentine Gardens (www.valentine-gardens.com).