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September 27, 1998|Robert Smaus

Things to do in your garden this week.

Mums the word. Think of the short-of-stature garden-type chrysanthemums showing up at nurseries as instant fall color. They'll probably flower for only about a month more, but they come in warm autumn-leaf colors that look great in pots on the front porch at Halloween and may even make it to Thanksgiving if you buy them in bud.

Over-seed lawns. Starting now near the coast, and in mid-October inland, you can over-seed Bermuda grass with inexpensive winter rye that will keep the browning Bermuda green as a shamrock all winter long. You can sow seed as late as December. Cut the lawn as short as possible, then sow seed and keep it moist until it germinates. It does not need to be covered by smelly steer manure. One pound of seed will cover 100 square feet.

Reset timers. Despite the occasional hot spell or Santa Ana, plants need less water now than in late spring and summer, yet many people water as if there were no seasons. Automatic irrigation systems should be reset now near the coast and in a few weeks inland. Reduce the times by 10% and in a few weeks, reduce them again. Or try spacing irrigations further apart. You can tell when you've overdone it and lawns are stressed when the blades turn bluish and don't spring up when stepped on.

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