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Gentle Reminders

Martha Stewart Living, April 2005

April
Hungry Plants
As days lengthen and light increases at this time of year, houseplants are resuming active growth, which means they should be fertilized. Choose a soluble food that contains nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. If you have flowering plants, look for one that is higher in phosphorous to promote bud set and bloom. Apply according to package instructions.

In Season
Morels: These wild mushrooms are highly prized for their deep, earthy flavor. With tall honeycomb-shaped caps, morels look a little unusual to the uninitiated but taste delicious stewed, simmered, or sauteed in butter. (Never eat them raw, since they contain small amounts of toxic helvellic acid, which is destroyed during cooking.)
Onions: Sweet spring varieties, such as Vidalia and Maui, are in abundant supply this month. These onions have tender, juicy flesh and much less of a bite than mature storage types. Their mild taste, even when raw, makes them the perfect choice for topping burgers and sandwiches.

Indoors
Don't forget to play April Fools' Day pranks! Make them harmless and fun.

If you don't use them year-round, pack up room humidifiers for the season. Before storing, drain and clean the machine's tank (follow the manufacturer's instructions) to prevent the growth of bacteria and fungi.

To ensure your tax return reaches the Internal Revenue Service on time, use Certified Mail with Return Receipt for mailing and delivery records. If you file electronically, you should print and keep the confirmation you get. If you plan to file for an extension, do so by April 15.

Prevent lint buildup in and around your clothes dryer; it can cause the machine to overheat. Clean the screen or filter after every use. While the dryer is running, check that exhaust is coming out of its external vent. If not, you may have to disconnect the exhaust duct to remove blockage. Be sure to remove accumulated lint from behind the dryer.

Outdoors
To reactivate outdoor faucets, remove any insulation around them, then turn on the water supply.

Hook up hoses and test them. Patch any holes with a patching kit (plastic and rubber hoses require different adhesives, so be sure to buy the proper kit), or replace the entire hose. Have your sprinkler system serviced.

Start cool-season planting in USDA Zones 5 to 7. Take seedlings of crops, such as cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, and onions, and transplant them outdoors. Plant colorful cool-season annuals, such as snapdragons, pansies, primroses, sweet peas, and calendulas, while the soil is cool and moist.

Have your lawn mower serviced. This is essential to maintaining a healthy lawn, as raggedly cut blades of grass invite disease.

Get in the Habit
Make certain your home is not at risk for an electrical fire. Check outlets and light-switch faceplates -- if they are hot or discolored, call a professional for an electrical-system inspection. Also, call an electrician if lights dim or flicker often, circuit breakers trip or fuses blow frequently, or buzzing noises come from the outlets.

Have You Done It Lately?
Get your gas grill ready. Wash the outside with dish soap and water; rinse. Scrub burners with a grill brush; clear clogs with a pipe cleaner or needle. Spray the interior with a grease-cutting solution made of one part distilled white vinegar and one part water. Close lid, and let sit for at least an hour; scrape gently with a putty knife.