Start summer-blooming bulbs indoors now

This is the time to get a head start on summer-blooming bulbs and tubers by starting them indoors in moist, soilless mix. Some of our favorites to plant include caladium (Caladium), elephant ears (Colocassia), tuberous begonia (Begonia x tuberhybrida), montbretia (Crocosmia), lily of the Nile (Agapanthus), garden canna (Canna x generalis), and tuberose (Polianthes). Keep the bulbs warm until new growth appears. Move pots into a sunny window or under grow lights if necessary. Move these pots outside when all danger of frost has passed, after gradually introducing plants to the growing conditions outside.

Propagating houseplants

All spring long, you can propagate houseplants. Try softwood cuttings, leaf cuttings, air-layering, cane cuttings, or divisions this year. The Garden’s website and Plant Information Services offer tips and tricks.

Keep dogs away from birdseed

If you feed birds in your garden, try to prevent your dog from eating the fallen birdseed. Birdseed alone is probably not going to cause any problems unless the dog eats so much that his intestines are affected.

Should a dog develop gas in the stomach from the seeds fermenting, it can cause the stomach to bloat, which can lead to a condition in which the stomach twists on itself. This is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate emergency veterinary attention.

Most dogs can pass small amounts of ingested birdseed. Another potential problem is that dogs may eat bird droppings that may contain salmonella bacteria along with the birdseed. Salmonella can cause severe digestive upset with lots of vomiting and diarrhea that can be fatal in very young or old dogs.

The salmonella bacteria can also be passed on to you. We feed birds at home and have not had any problems with our dogs, but we do occasionally need to shoo one away from browsing the seed.

• Tim Johnson is director of horticulture at Chicago Botanic Garden,

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