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March 01, 2001|ROBERT SMAUS

Things to do this week:

* Don't play in the mud! With all this rain, and the forecast for still more, it bears repeating: Do not dig or walk in the garden. Even weeding is a bad idea in soil this wet because any activity is likely to damage the soil's structure. Walking on it will squeeze out all those valuable air spaces that gardeners work long and hard to add to average or poor soils by using gypsum and organic amendments.

If you must step into a garden bed, put down a 2-foot-by-2-foot piece of plywood that will distribute your weight.

* But do get those weeds. As soon as the garden dries a little (it usually takes at least three to four days), get after all those weeds that have been germinating in these soaking rains. Try not to step into beds but work from paths or from the lawn.

Use a long-handled hoe to get weeds you can't reach. Hoes work well on winter weeds, which are annuals and do not have underground parts or extensive roots. (But make sure it isn't going to rain for a few days or the hoed weeds will simply reroot). Because they're annuals, it's important to get them out before they can set seed or you will have even more weeds next winter and spring.

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