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How to deal with deluge

Stormwater: With last weekend's deluge, our rainy season was off to a wild start. An environmental concern during heavy, flooding rains is stormwater runoff from our landscapes.

Rain and irrigation water carries soil, debris, fertilizer and pesticides from your yard into neighborhood storm drains that lead into the bays, rivers and lakes. These substances can harm water quality, habitats and organisms. Reducing runoff from your property minimizes those problems. You can take responsibility by the following actions:

Direct downspouts and gutters to drain onto your lawn and into plant beds or containment areas where rain will soak into the soil rather than running off.

Decrease erosion by planting groundcovers on thinly vegetated areas under trees or on slopes.

Use mulch, bricks, flagstones, gravel or other porous surfaces on walkways, patios and driveways.

Create a simple cistern to collect rain by placing an empty garbage can under the downspout. Use this water to irrigate plants during dry spells. Be sure the can has a lid, to discourage mosquitoes.

Create swales (low areas) or terracing to catch and filter stormwater.

Annuals: Pinch off faded blooms of marigold, zinnia, portulaca and other summer annuals to extend their flowering season. There is still plenty of time to plant celosia, marigolds, portulaca, vinca and zinnias.

Daylilies: Once your daylilies finish blooming, they can be divided. Overcrowding often cuts down on the amount of bloom. When dividing daylilies, remove only parts of the clump to alleviate overcrowding, or perhaps you would like to rejuvenate the entire bed. If that's the case, remove all daylilies and place them in a shaded area. This is a good time to add organic matter such as peat, compost or animal manure to the bed to enrich the soil. Apply 25 pounds of organic matter and 2{ pounds of 5-10-10 or similar fertilizer for every 100 square feet. Work it all into the existing soil.

To divide a clump of daylilies, first use a knife or pruning shears to cut through the mass of roots. Then replant, spacing them so as not to crowd the roots. Make sure the crown is level with the soil line. Watering is important when you replant. Keep the bed moist the first week by watering every other day unless there is rain. The second week water twice; after that, once a week or as needed.

Azaleas: Last chance this season to prune your azaleas. They can be cut back one-third to one-half. Put down a layer of organic mulch 2 to 3 inches deep around the plants. That will help conserve moisture and keep down weeds.

Poinsettias: New growth should be about ready to prune now. Cut new stems back when they reach 12 inches. Prune only the new growth back to four leaves.

Bougainvillea: Have you had difficulty rooting bougainvillea cuttings? One method is taking 3- to 4-inch cuttings from last year's wood and placing them in a clear plastic bag which contains several inches of moist builder's sand in the bottom. Remove foliage from the bottom half of the stem, then dip that end in a rooting hormone, tapping off the excess. Stick the cutting about 2 inches into the sand. Several cuttings can be placed in the bag. Mist lightly with water. Fasten the top of the bag with a twist-tie, then place it in bright, indirect light. No additional water should be needed. Cuttings should root in five to six weeks.

Compiled by JOAN BRADSHAW and OPAL SCHALLMO of the Pinellas County Cooperative Extension Service. If you have questions, call them at 582-2110.

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