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Proctor's Garden: Put manure to good use

Believe it or not, manure can be a gardener's best friend.

DENVER, Colorado — Manure can be a gardener's best friend if used wisely. Buy bags of composted, well-rotted manure at the hardware store. It doesn't stink and while it's nutritious for plants, the ammonia has dissipated so it won't burn plants. 

Spreading manure on the lawn or beds provides nutrients but--more importantly--it improves the structure of the soil. You spread the manure and the earthworms take care of the rest. It's beneficial for lawns, perennial borders and vegetable beds

Keep an eye on the forecast--especially at night. Moderate night temperatures of 50 degrees or higher are vital before you plant heat-loving annuals. It's got to feel like Mexico for plants such as salvia, zinnia, marigold, sweet potato vine, coleus, begonia, dahlia and cannas. 

It's fine to go shopping. Who can resist? Expose your new plants to the sun gradually but resist planting until that 50-degree nighttime temperature is sustained. This also applies to heat-loving vegetables such as eggplant, basil, pepper, squash, melons, cucumber, beans and, of course, tomato. 

Besides adding manure, what you do now will make for a pretty summer garden. Now is the time to pot up begonias, caladiums, cannas and dahlias. I always soak the dormant tubers overnight. You'll probably need gallon pots for cannas and dahlias; smaller pots will do for caladiums and begonias. After potting, water thoroughly and put them in a warm, bright space. They'll start to grow quickly and be ready for planting in late May or June. 

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