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Archive for Sunday, June 27, 2004

Flower seeds can keep your garden chugging along

June 27, 2004

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With the feverish pitch of spring planting past, there is a lull in the garden.

Flower, vegetable, and fruit plants are growing, building like a wave that sweeps over the garden to transform it into a cornucopia of colors, aromas, and flavors.

Are you looking for some things to do as this wave peaks?

Sow more annual flower seeds, directly in the ground. These sowings can fill in bare spots left, for example, where leaves of spring-flowering bulbs have died back. Repeated sowings, every few weeks, prolong the show from bachelor's-button and annual baby's-breath, individual plants of which bloom only a short while. Others to sow include annual coreopsis (tickseed), candytuft, annual phlox, cosmos, alyssum, and calendula.

As you stroll about your garden admiring your work, snap or cut spent blossoms from all flower plants. Periodically shear back plants such as alyssum and nasturtium, which are floppy and loaded down with too many blossoms to cut individually. Removing spent flowers prevents seed formation so more energy is channeled into growth and more flowers. Removing spent blossoms from perennials such as Canterbury bells and delphinium often prods the plants to bloom again later in the season.

Keep an eye out for slugs. Place shallow pans of beer near slugs' favorite plants (such as marigolds). The slugs are attracted to, and drown, in the beer.

Now is also a good time to plan for autumn. Plant chrysanthemums, for example, for autumn flowering. To make the plants bushy, pinch out the tips of the stems when they are a half-foot long. Discontinue pinching after midsummer, when flower buds begin to form. Cabbage, carrot, beet, and broccoli sown in summer will be at their peak of flavor and ready for harvest during cool, moist autumn weather.

Also continue to weed regularly. Even if you did a good job controlling chickweed, grasses, and other spring weeds, heat loving weeds such as purslane, lambs-quarters, and bindweed have moved in. Weeds are easily killed with a quick run over the soil with either a hoe or rototiller -- shallowly so as not to damage roots of garden plants -- or by laying organic materials such as grass clippings, straw, sawdust, wood chips, or compost on top of the ground.

Keeping weeds in check from now through fall prevents perennial weeds from getting a foothold and annual weeds from seeding. The result: even fewer weeds next season.

Now relax, mow your lawn, and enjoy the blueberries and mulberries that usher in summer.

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