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It's a Very Good Time for Plant Maintenance

August 21, 1999|From ASSOCIATED PRESS

There's little important to do in the garden this time of year. Perhaps a flopped-over pepper plant needs straightening or alyssum stems need to be pushed off a path and tucked back into the flower border. Nonetheless, it pays to spend a few minutes tending to some small tasks, listed below, that demand regular attention.

* Deadhead flowers: Snipping or breaking off spent flowers diverts a plant's energy from seed production. This means more flowers, this season for annuals, or next season for some perennials.

* Pull or hoe weeds: Unless the garden is an overgrown jungle of weeds, it's easy to keep the ground weed-free with just a few minutes of weekly diligence. In hot, dry weather, new weeds can hardly establish themselves. A garden weed-free now is easier to keep that way than in the moister weather of fall and spring.

* Make notes about this year's garden to improve next year's garden: Should you plant more peas and fewer tomatoes next year? Should you plant the California poppies you see and admire in your neighbor's yard?

* Water newly set transplants: Yes, there are transplants to set out this time of year. As soon as delphiniums, shasta daisies, pansies and other perennial flower seedlings are large enough, move them among other flowers and beneath trees. Do the same for biennials, such as foxglove and hollyhock. Tuck endive, head lettuce, kale and kohlrabi seedlings in the spaces left after corn, onion and bush bean harvests.

* Keep an eye out for pests: Among the most common vegetable garden pests is the cabbage worm, the offspring of those dainty white butterflies fluttering about the garden. Cabbage worms are easy to control nontoxically. If broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower become too riddled with holes, spray Dipel, Thuricide or some other pesticide containing Bacillus thuringiensis (B.t.), which is a bacteria harmless to humans and most animals.

* Mow the lawn. A lush lawn reflects a well-nourished root system. Mow no shorter than the recommended height--usually 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches.

Shorter mowing starves the roots. Unless the clippings are very long, leave them in place to recycle nutrients to the soil.

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