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Step Away from the Geraniums

Step Away from the Geraniums

You see them everywhere: bedding plants in flashy colors that make your drab little stucco house cry out for Geraniums! Marigolds! Petunias! And your tired little dinners shriek Basil! Cilantro! Dill!

Stop that right now.

Despite the unseasonably warm weather in February and March, we are being played for April Fools by Mother Nature and the big-box stores. Ignore the rafts of hothouse-grown plants shivering outside of Albertsons. Those buyers at Home Depot have no idea what thrives in New Mexico in early Spring. Do not post on Facebook “Oh, I hope my poor little basil plants make it overnight, it’s going to snow.” We WILL unfriend you.

Annuals do not belong outdoors until Mother’s Day—if and only if said Mother’s Day has traditional mid-May weather. Pay attention to the forecast or be prepared to rush everything back inside at the first whiff of returning frost.

Seriously, annuals have a long growing season here, and are a huge bargain because of it. They can last from mid-May until mid-November in most cases—SIX MONTHS of joy! Why waste your money and freeze them out after only a short week or two?

Here are five things you could be doing in your New Mexico garden in April.

1. If you must have those lovely annuals, store them in a sunny spot indoors (and remember to water them). You can say you’re “hardening them off” to sound like a real gardener. Hardening off means gradually getting plants used to outdoor conditions.
 
2. Plant perennials instead. Here’s a hardy list: Sage (Salvia), Lavender (Lavandula), Catnip (Nepeta), Spurge (Euphorbia), Rosemary (Rosemarinus), Thyme (Thymus), Jupiter’s Beard (Centranthus ruber), Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium), Dwarf Plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides). Tell us your favorite perennials for New Mexico.
 
3. You left your hose out all winter, didn’t you? (Don’t ask me how I know.) Buy one that doesn’t kink up when you drag it across the yard.
 
4. Start a compost pile and improve your soil quality. Click on this helpful article from the Bernalillo County Extension Service: http://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/_h/H110.pdf
 
5. Make a big batch of weed-killer that won’t make us sick: mix a quart of white vinegar with 2 tsps. of mild dish soap and 1/4 cup of salt. Spray it on any green thing you want to kill.