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Around the Yard

March 02, 2000|ROBERT SMAUS

Things to do this week:

* Feed when it rains. Nitrogen is the most valuable plant nutrient--especially needed at this growing time of year. When we get one soaking storm after another, rains tend to push, or leach, nitrogen down through the soil and out of plant roots' reach. So the nitrogen needs to be replaced. Out in the garden, mulches of true compost can do this. Or apply a fertilizer that is mostly nitrogen (the percentage of nitrogen is the first of the three numbers on a fertilizer package, the "10" in 10-6-5). The second number represents the percentage of phosphorous and the third, potassium.

Clever gardeners scatter inexpensive granular fertilizers just before the next storm so the rain dissolves the fertilizer and carries it into the soil, where it will remain for at least a while. It doesn't take much, so don't overdo it.

Also fertilize container-bound plants after rains, but use a complete fertilizer that also contains phosphorous and potassium, rather than one that is high in any particular element. Container plants need fertilizing more often than those in the ground because they are completely dependent on the gardener for nutrients (the exception may be indoor plants, which seem to need little or no fertilizer, according to one study).

* Prune fuchsias. Time to cut back those fuchsias. If you are growing them in hanging baskets, trim branches back to the sides of the pot--that's the old rule of thumb. It's similar with upright kinds--you want to prune off a little less growth than grew the previous year, to give it a nearly fresh start. Cut back last year's growth so two "eyes" remain (eyes are the buds next to where leaves are attached).

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