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September 13, 1998|Robert Smaus

Things to do in your garden this week.

When plants faint. In hot, dry weather, some plants wilt no matter how much water you pour on them. But hesitate before you irrigate. Make sure the ground is really dry. Watering whenever they temporarily wilt might bring on root rots (root rots, coincidentally, also look like the plant is simply wilting).

Some stems simply can't suck up water fast enough for the leaves on sizzling days. As the day cools, they'll recover.

More or less lawn. If you've decided to make more room for gardening by killing off parts of the lawn and enlarging your borders, now is the time to do it, before the fall planting season arrives.

On a still, hot day, spray the grass with the herbicide Roundup, and it will kill the tops and roots (and every plant it touches, so be careful). As soon as the grass turns brown, it may be dug out and the soil can be prepared for planting.

If, on the other hand, you want to plant a new lawn, this is also a good time to sow seed or install sod. You can plant cool-season lawns like fescue or warm-season grasses like Bermuda. Just remember to water frequently, and new lawns will become established before shadows lengthen and days become too cool for good growth.

Try autumn-blooming crocus. Bulbs begin showing up at nurseries about now, but the first to buy and plant are those that flower in the fall months. Saffron crocus (Crocus sativus) is one that you can actually harvest a crop from. Tuck the bulbs in sunny little spots and then harvest the orange-red stigmas to dry and use in saffron dishes. It's very difficult to get them to bloom the next year, but you can try.

More reliable fall crocus varieties include the almost indestructible Crocus goulimyi, which will actually spread in the garden, C. speciosus and several others. Crocus-like colchicum bulbs will bloom sitting on a sunny table top, with no pot, soil or water. Plant them and snails will eat bulbs to the core.

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