THE OLD SIGN PHILOSOPHER, THOUGHTS FOR THE DAY!

FREE BEER TOMORROW
Spring unlocks the flowers..... To paint the laughing soil

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MORE TREES AND ZILLIONS OF ANNUAL FLOWERS ARRIVED TODAY

Yes, I thought we had enough but today another truckload of trees arrived from our incredible grower in Tennessee. More dogwoods, flowering crabs, over 200 burning bushes, 12' multi-stem Duraheat Birches. As we were unloading that truck a truck arrived from Maryland with "Plants that Work". These are smaller packaged perennials which retail at $6.99@. UPS brought several thousand additional perennials from our perennial source in Michigan and even more with another truckload of annuals from Michigan. Almost forgot the 2 truck loads of mulch, 2 truck loads of topsoil and a truck load of TROPICALS from Florida.

Somehow during the course of the day, we still give the best service in the garden center business.

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JAPANESE PAINTED FERN

The Japanese painted fern, cultivar 'Pictum,' is spotlighted as the perennial of the week. Though the plant is petite in size, Japanese painted fern provides outstanding texture and color in the shade garden. Japanese painted fern also can be grown in patio containers and hanging baskets.

Known botanically as Athyrium niponicum 'Pictum,' Japanese painted fern is native to Asia, but is hardy in the St. Louis area. The plant grows about 18 inches tall with metallic, silver-gray fronds accented with just a touch of burgundy red and a hint of blue.

Japanese painted fern will adapt to nearly any level of shade, but the most attractive foliage color is displayed in light shade. Like most ferns, a well-drained organic-rich soil with plentiful moisture and high relative humidity is ideal. Adding a 2-3 inch layer of mulch each year will help maintain soil moisture and organic content. Minimal maintenance, such as pruning, deadheading and fertilizing is needed. The plant is easily propagated by division in spring or fall.

Check out all the perennial possibilites at Greenscape Gardens or check out the website for perennials.

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VEGETABLE GARDENING TIPS FOR BEGINNERS

Spring has sprung in the St. Louis area, and many gardening novices are taking their first treks to the garden center with tons of questions. Many of the questions and statements are in regards to their neighbor's garden. They turn green with envy while admiring the neighbor's garden but don't think their thumb is green enough? My typical answer is anyone can develop a green thumb, as long as you're willing to invest a little time, patience and BLISTERS.

Good planning is essential to successful gardening. Start your garden off right by selecting a location that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight daily. Check the site for good drainage by making sure water doesn't tend to stand after a rain or irrigation. Try to steer clear of trees and shrubs that would compete with your garden plants for water, light and nutrients.

Once you've selected your site, sketch your plans on paper. Decide how big the garden will be, what crops you want to grow and where to place them. Beginners have a tendency to go overboard, not realizing how much work lies ahead. It's best to start out small and gradually add to your patch each year as needed. A 100-square-foot plot should be plenty for your first venture.

Many different vegetables will produce well in St. Louis. Most new gardeners start out by picking up a few seed packets at their local garden center or grocery. Before heading out to the garden to plant, you'll need to gather some tools and properly prepare the soil. A hoe, rake, spade, sprinkler, string and stakes are about the minimum tool supply you'll need. It's a good idea to have your soil tested as early as possible to learn how much of what kind of fertilizer to apply.

Next, you should prepare a good planting bed, but make sure the soil has dried sufficiently before you work it. Working wet soil will damage the soil's structure. Squeeze a handful of soil, and if it crumbles away easily, it's ready. If it sticks together in a muddy ball, you'd better hold off. When it's ready, work the soil at least 6 inches deep. The best recommendation is to add some soil amendments to our lousy clay soil. Compost or manure tilled into the garden will make your first garden a success. Then rake the soil surface level.

Most seed packages will list planting directions such as depth and spacing. When setting out transplants, be sure to dig a hole larger than the soil ball of the plant to aid root establishment. Most transplants are sold in containers that must be removed before planting. Score the sides of the transplants to encourage the roots to expand out of its previous packaged size. Transplants dry out and wilt rapidly, so be sure to get those transplants watered thoroughly as soon as possible.

The job doesn't end with planting. There are always weeds, insects and diseases to battle. There are numerous cultural types of controls and preventive measures along with chemicals. No one chemical will control all problems on all crops, so you'll need to identify your problem correctly and then choose the proper control. Your first garden will be a learning experience, the knowledge and fruits (vegetables) will be well worth the sweat and blisters. Good Luck!

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LYME DISEASE

Spring is the most important time to take precautions to avoid Lyme disease. Unfortunately, it's also the time gardeners are most anxious to be outside. The disease is common in or near woodlands of the midwest, including the St. Louis area. The peak time for infection is early May through July.

People get the disease from the tiny nymph of the black-legged tick. Formerly known as the deer tick because adult ticks congregate on deer, the tick nymph probably got the disease bacterium from a white-footed mouse. Antibiotics are the remedy once infected, but diagnosis is difficult, and too often cures are incomplete.

Avoiding tick bites is the key to preventing not only Lyme disease, but also other tick-borne diseases. Avoid areas where ticks are known to be present, especially in late spring. Wear light-colored clothing to make tick spotting easier; also wear long-sleeved shirts, pull socks over your pant legs, and use tick repellents. Around your house, discourage mice by eliminating hiding places and food sources. Make a ritual of inspecting exposed children for ticks, especially around the groin, navel, armpits, head, and behind knees. If you find ticks, remove them with tweezers, then watch for a circular rash around the bite. If one appears, see your doctor.

The FDA approved Lymerix, the first vaccine for Lyme disease. For maximum effectiveness, three injections at least a month apart are required. The vaccine is a good choice if you live in high-risk areas and spend a lot of time outdoors. It's approved for persons between 15 and 70 years old. A close friend of mine had Lyme disease and didn't realize he had a problem. Another friend, who is a phamasist saw the rash and diagnosed the inflammation as lame disease and he promptly received medical attention. The strange part of this story is; they were on separate vacations in Florida and by chance, ran into each other at Busch Gardens. If this unlikely meeting didn't occur the Lyme Disease may have caused a more serious medical problem.