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GARDEN GAFFES : GARDENING : Planting Often Best in the Fall

June 03, 1989|RICK VANDERKNYFF | Times Staff Writer

Everyone knows springtime is planting time, right?

Well . . . not necessarily.

In truth, fall is probably the best all-around planting time for Southern California, according to Elaine Thompson, executive director of the California Assn. of Nurserymen.

Gardening in spring is a transplanted Eastern tradition that doesn't quite translate to the West Coast. Planting in spring means that perennials will have to withstand the hot, arid Southern California summer before they can really establish a stable root system, and often that is simply asking too much of a plant.

Better to wait for the cooler, wetter fall and give a plant the better part of a year to gird for the rigors of summer. Color annuals, of course, can be planted in spring.

Reach for roots in watering: Ask gardening professionals about common mistakes in the home garden and most will come up with something about incorrect watering. Thompson is no exception. Her particular beef is the practice of hand-sprinkling.

As the weather heats up, many back-yard gardeners try to protect their greenery with brief, frequent sprays from a hand sprinkler. It is much better to water less frequently--every four days or so--and more deeply. Also, a set sprinkler or sprinkler system will cover an area more evenly than hand watering.

Shallow waterings are simply not going to reach the roots. The moisture needs to sink several inches in order to reach the roots; repeated shallow waterings can cause the roots to grow unnaturally along the top of the soil or turn up from deeper in the ground in an attempt to reach water.

Health tip for hummingbird feeders: Orange County has several colorful hummingbird species that can be attracted to suburban back yards with the help of popular feeders sold in most garden-supply stores. But Sylvia Gallagher of the local Sea and Sage Audubon Society warns against the common practice of adding red food dye to the syrup solution.

Evidence now shows that the dye may be harmful to hummingbirds, Gallagher said. Any red coloring on the feeder will do.

A shock for bug zappers: Homeowners who rely on electronic bug zappers to cut down on back-yard mosquitoes may be in for a shock. The popular electric device kills lots of insects, but studies show that few of them are bloodsucking female mosquitoes, reports Peter J. Bryant, a professor of biology at UC Irvine.

The devices use an ultraviolet light behind an electrocuting grid to attract and kill bugs. A study by Notre Dame University researchers found that of 3,287 insects killed in an average 24-hour period, only 107 were female mosquitoes.

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