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HOME DESIGN : A SPECIAL ISSUE OF ORANGE COUNTY LIFE : A Little Judicious Pruning Can Increase Your Summer Yield of Peppers, Tomatoes

August 12, 1989|RICK VANDERKNYFF | Times Staff Writer

Tomatoes and peppers really take off in the summer, and many gardeners are happy to let nature take its course. But letting all that growth go unchecked can produce tall, lanky plants with lots of leaves and little fruit. Plants can get four- to six-feet tall before they even flower.

A little judicious pruning can help the plant direct more of that growth energy into fruit rather than foliage, according to the California Assn. of Nurserymen. Watch for growth that appears to have blossoms coming up soon--and leave it alone. Prune the tip leaf or up to a third of the stem from branches that have lots of green but no hint of blossom.

After pruning, it's a good idea to water well and then apply a liquid fertilizer (one designed to produce flowers, with a low-nitrogen formulation). As always, do not water immediately after fertilizing.

Tree-planting tip--How deep do you plant a new tree? Many home gardeners flunk the answer to this question, according to Norm Van Ginkle, owner of Loma Vista Nursery in Fullerton.

The tendency is to plant the trees too deep, which puts part of the trunk in the soil and exposes it to rot. Often, that kills the tree, Van Ginkle said.

Plant a tree with the top of the root ball at soil level. After planting, water generously. "When you first plant the tree, you really can't over-water," Van Ginkle said. "It helps saturate the root ball."

Indoor roses risky--Home design magazines will often show potted miniature roses growing indoors, sometimes well away from windows. The truth, however, is that there is rarely enough light to grow the sun-loving plants inside the home.

They can sometimes survive in a particularly well-lighted window, but a cautious approach is best. "If you have a very sunny window, you can try one plant," said Dorothy Cralle, who runs Pixie Treasures Miniature Roses in Yorba Linda with her daughter, Laurie Chaffin.

If the plant survives a couple of weeks in this location, the experiment is a likely success. If the leaves turn yellow and wither, it's time to try a new spot.

The high road--Dogs shed their fur in summer, but lawns need to stay long to keep cool. Mowing the lawn high in the heat of August helps to keep the roots cooler and the grass greener.

Kept in the dark--Cymbidium orchids need a place in the sun. Many people have a tendency to protect the plants too much and end up with a beautiful plant with no flowers, according to Joan Conceicao, sales manager of Brecht Orchid Gardens in Costa Mesa. Proper sunlight is needed to produce the plant's showy flowers.

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