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GARDEN JOBS

Dividing Time

August 31, 1986|GEORGE HARMON SCOTT and BILL SIDNAM

The bulbs of Amaryllis belladonna (also known as naked lady) can be divided now, even if the plants are in bloom. Once green leaves start to show, though, it's too late. At that time new roots are growing, and disturbing the bulbs will set them back; often they won't bloom again for many years. Unless the papery bulbs are pushing out of the ground, there is no need to divide. Naked lady, with its long reddish-brown leafless stems, will grow up through many ground covers, even ivy. A pretty combination of color is the lavender Lantana montevidensis and the pink amaryllis. Plant new bulbs so that the tops are barely level with the ground.

Using soap to control insects is much more effective than spraying with plain water, but it does not have the lasting effects of spraying with an insecticide. Soap does have the advantage of being readily available and easy to use. A liquid dish-washing soap is better than a hard soap, mainly because it's already in a sudsy form. Mix as much as two fluid ounces in a gallon of water, and spray. Because some plants might be burned by the soap, it's a good idea to wash them off with water within half an hour.

When planting from a flat, six-pack, four-inch pot or five-gallon can, always take a look at each plant's root system. If it's thick around the edges (where it was held back by the container), loosen up the root ball. With a small plant, you can rub a finger down the sides. With a five-gallon can, it might be necessary to cut some of the roots. Though it might seem that this would hurt the plant, quite the contrary is true. If roots are left growing around in a circle, they will continue that way, and gradually the plant will be strangled.

Leaf lettuce can be planted throughout the Southland from now until spring. Sow seeds along the borders of a kitchen or herb garden. When the plants start to mature, thin some of the crowded ones to use fresh in a salad. Good leaf varieties for Southern California include 'Red Sails,' 'Black-seeded Simpson,' 'Prizehead,' 'Crispy Sweet,' 'Oak Leaf ' and 'Ruby.'

Prune blackberry plants now. The canes that bore fruit this year have already died or are about to, so cut them off at ground level. New canes, which will produce next year's fruit, should be tied up on a trellis and pruned only if they are too long.

Radishes are the perfect choice for your child's first vegetable garden, because he or she will see such quick results. Soon after the seeds are planted, seedlings will break through to the surface, and in about 25 days the radishes will be ready to eat.

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