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SoCal Gardening

Around the Yard

November 19, 1998|ROBERT SMAUS

Things to do this week:

* Bulb covers. There's no point leaving bare dirt where bulbs are planted when you can plant something else right over them. Traditional bulb covers are low-growing annuals such as forget-me-nots, lobelia, annual phlox, alyssum or violas. Spring- or winter-blooming annuals work best because you can let the plants dry up at the same time as the bulbs in late spring.

Perennial candytuft is another favorite for planting over bulbs, and even low-growing bulbs can be covered by things like thyme or sedum.

Bulb fancier George de Gennaro used to plant the native baby blue eyes (Nemophila) from seed in fields of yellow narcissus to stunning effect.

It's fun to contrast or harmonize colors in this fashion. Just be sure to pick plants that stay lower than the bulb flowers and that can get by on similar care.

* Prevent weeds. If rain or irrigation have not already sprouted weed seeds in lawns, you can keep them from germinating by applying a preemergent herbicide, most often found in special lawn fertilizers. They're the best way to keep lawns weed-free.

* Time to move. Now that the weather is decidedly winter-like, you can move a great variety of plants to more promising or harmonious spots in the garden, and good gardeners move plants a lot trying to find that perfect spot.

Most plants are nearly dormant or quiescent, and don't mind being dug up in November and December. Be sure to get as big a root ball as possible and water the plant thoroughly after putting it in its new home.

Try to do the job quickly and don't leave the plant sitting out of the ground in full sun for long, although I have left tough things like clumps of agapanthus sitting out of the ground (in the shade) for weeks at a time before replanting them.

You can even move fairly large shrubs with an old gardener's trick. Wrap the root ball while it is still in the ground with chicken wire and then tighten the wire by twisting it with a screwdriver or some other substantial object (those old-time gardeners used hay hooks). Undo the wire in the plant's new home, or simply let the roots grow through it. The wire will eventually rust away.

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