Helpful Garden Reference Sites

Garden Reference Sites
If you garden, these spring and early summer weekends are so essential they can almost define the gardening experience. It's a time when you promise yourself you'll wear your gardening gloves -- but don't --warn yourself to bend from the knees -- but forget, vow to put in enough supports and cages to keep everything up off the ground later -- but once you see what a little aluminum cage (post, wire mesh or hoop) costs these days you buy half of what you want (vowing to make your own --as if).

It's also a time when you start to see your nearest neighbors emerge after a long winter of eating Christmas stocking bounty -- well-fed and in need of a little color. People add adopted pets to their families around this time, so the neighborhood dogs are out eyeing new frenemies. The cats are hanging back in the shadows waiting to see how things go.

The mornings smell like green things growing, and all of a sudden the birds are back in earnest: decorating your trees like animated ornaments, squabbling in the branches and swaggering around your landscape as if they owned it. While you're rummaging in the cabinets for the sun tea jar, make a note of these four handy reference sites. In the next couple of months, one of them may make your life easier.

Helpful Gardening Reference Sites

Fight bugs - The National Gardening Association has been nice enough to compile a photo list of the garden vermin that plague us -- as well as a few insect friends we should cultivate or leave alone. It has pictures of bugs as well as close ups of plants sporting different symptoms of pest predation. If you do suffer an infestation (which, face it, is inevitable) this site will give you some guidance: Pest Identification (Photo) Library

Put plants out on time - I harvest seeds in the fall every year and sometimes forget how far ahead of the last frost I should get them started and what to do with the seedlings once they're ready to go. This table has been a big help: Seed Planting Chart (Mostly Veggies)

Get the help you need - These folks have local offices in every state and can offer free help and useful information on everything from choosing the right tree for your landscape to figuring out what type of grub you just dug up. No question is too silly, so if you're confused about your soil, the critter that just ran under your deck or the brown spots on your azaleas, give them a call: USDA Cooperative Extension Locator

Know your zone - This color coded list of U.S. weather hardiness zones will help you understand those zone references on the plants you buy (or lust after). Once you know your zone, you can stock up on plants with more confidence about whether or not they'll live long and prosper. Yes, some areas have microclimates that fly in the face of zone map recommendations. If you're a seasoned gardener, you can adjust accordingly. If you're a newbie, zones provide a valuable rule of thumb guide: USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map

Have a productive day in the garden, and if you broke a few promises you made to yourself over the winter -- about not buying too much or remembering to switch to colored mulch this year (what's with that stuff, anyway?), cut yourself a little gardener's slack. For the dedicated gardener, this is like Christmas and a birthday all rolled into one -- it's only natural to succumb to the excitement.

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