Getting Back To The Garden

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It's spring and Rim country residents are getting out the gardening implements in anticipation of the warming months.

Whether it's vegetables, flowers or xeriscaping, Glen McCombs owner of Plant Fair Nursery has ideas and tips about making your landscape the kind of oasis you desire.

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Glen McCombs of Plant Fair Nursery is just one of the local merchants with the supplies and expertise to help with your spring planting.

"April is a transition month," McCombs said. "What happens in April is that we are still freezing, but people are starting to put their summer plants in. If you do plant anything, you can protect it by putting old sheets or pillowcases over it. All through April and even into the first part of May, we have to protect or be prepared to protect our plants."

McCombs believes that despite the erratic temperatures of spring, gardeners can still do a lot.

"Some vegetables you can plant now are broccoli, lettuce and cabbage -- strawberries also have no problem with the cold," McCombs said. "You can start peppers and tomatoes, but they need to be protected."

In terms of flowers, McCombs said that petunias, pansies and snapdragon can be planted and survive the temperatures.

While gardeners can still plant bulbs, McCombs said time is running out if you want a summer bloom.

"We are winding up the season for planting bulbs," McCombs said. "You can still plant gladiolas and dahlias right up until the end of April, but by May they really need to be in the ground."

According to McCombs, some of the most common questions he is asked are about roses.

"Right now, roses just need to be fed and watered," McCombs said, "unless they have aphids. We recommend a rose food with a systemic bug killer in it -- or if you are trying to stay organic, you can spray soapy water on your rose bushes."

McCombs cautions against using detergent and only spraying when the aphids are present.

"Use a soap like Ivory and only spray them down every once in awhile when you see them," McCombs said.

When it comes time to decide whether to plant seeds or get the starter plants, McCombs offers some advice on seeding.

"Seeds are temperamental," McCombs said. "A lot of people don't have good luck with seeds and usually the problem is seeding at the wrong time and under the wrong conditions."

Right now, McCombs said that the variable temperatures make it difficult for the new seedlings to germinate. One option is to start them indoors.

"Tomatoes, for instance -- you can put them in a tray and set them on top of your refrigerator at a constant 70 degrees," McCombs said. "Almost anything will germinate under those conditions. Then you can transplant them outside."

As water is a precious commodity in Rim country, Plant Fair devotes much of its inventory to low-water use plants.

"Many perennials are actually low-water use," McCombs said. "Probably the biggest reason they die is over watering."

The nursery has several varieties of native plants that use little water.

"We have a whole world of low-water use plants," McCombs said. "Columbine, for instance, is native to the area and doesn't take much water. It's also a wonderful time to plant perennial grasses. More people are planting those to go around stream beds, walkways and boulders -- they really give a native look."

For those who prefer a low-water, low-maintenance xeriscape, the nursery has a special section devoted to those types of plants.

"With our low-water plants, we are trying to give as much information as we possibly can," McCombs said, pointing to signs posted in front of every plant species.

"We provide text along with a picture of what the plant will look like as it matures," McCombs said. "The low-water use plants haven't been very popular in the past because they don't look good in the pot, but the picture shows what they will look like in two to three years."

Besides varieties of Yucca plants, the nursery has ground coverings that not only use little water but can help with erosion control.

"We have plants, ground coverings and grasses that will thrive with very little water," McCombs said, "By next month we should have a large selection of the low-water plants."

With the bark beetle infestation, many residents have seen their once forested yards turn to brown graveyards.

"We have trees that can replace ponderosas," McCombs said. "With all the trees dying people are going to want something that grows fast."

McCombs points to rows of young trees.

"The Austrian pine is good and the Leylandi cypress is also a good replacement for ponderosas," McCombs said. "The cypress is resistant to infestation and we've seen them grow in Strawberry 2 to 3 feet a year in good soil."

Plant Fair Nursery also has a new amphitheater amidst the lush landscape. Starting next month, it will be used for weekly lectures on everything from rose care to bark beetles to growing vegetables.

For more information on the weekly lecture series or any gardening questions, call 474-6556 or visit Plant Fair Nursery on Highway 260 in Star Valley.

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