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GARDENING : Try to Remember the Prime of September and Prepare Now

August 20, 1994|ADRIENNE COOK | TIMES-POST NEWS SERVICE

Garden got you down? Weeds taking over, pests eating it up, heat too intense, not enough water? You could go on vacation--if you could bear returning to even more chaos in the yard.

August garden blues are a common phenomenon.

August is the time for garden-store owners to take a vacation. It's not just the heat; it's nature itself. Flowers are fewer in August than at any other time of the season, and summer storms will tear down carefully staked tomatoes and peppers or flatten waving pillars of cosmos.

The good news about August is that it's close to September, which is a great time for the garden. To get the most out of next month's sublime interval, the gardener can perform certain tasks now to launch the renewal process.

It is not uncommon for annual flowers--petunias, verbenas, geraniums, salvias to name a few--to get leggy and meager of bloom in August. If you left them alone, they'd probably make a comeback, but working with them a little now will produce a better effect.

The top growth of annuals can be chopped back hard without harm; this needs to be done now to get rid of the legginess and force production of new blooms.

Use scissors to trim off all the gangly growth, shaping the plant into a mound.

Once the plants have been pruned back and shaped, feed them with a mild nitrogen fertilizer, such as diluted fish emulsion, available at home and garden stores, or a pre-mixed organic fertilizer. New growth will begin immediately, and within a few days much of the stalky look that results from severe pruning will be filled in with young foliage. Blooms will begin to appear in a couple of weeks.

Hanging baskets often look overgrown and unattractive by now. Impatiens in the garden maintain an appealingly compact, bushy look, yet they can get rangy in a hanging basket, especially if they have been under-watered.

Like other annuals that are being restored, they can be trimmed to about one-half to one-third their overall size. These, too, should be fed with a mild fertilizer. Impatiens will grow year round if they are protected from the cold.

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