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There's a time to work, a time to enjoy the results

This is a busy time of the year in the garden and the weather has cooperated beautifully. The mild temperatures and manageable humidity have made yard chores more enjoyable.

I'll highlight some of the activities that have been going on in my yard in hopes of encouraging the same at yours.

The lawn had been neglected for too long and suffered some disease and insect damage, so I decided this was the time to renovate. I rented a sod cutter for my husband to use _ see how that works: I rent, he labors. We removed about 1,600 square feet of sod and had it hauled away. This got rid of the majority of weeds and the unhealthy spots.

If you are laying sod at your house, here are a few hints.

You can kill the old sod or weeds with herbicide and then wait about two weeks and lay the new sod over the old and now dead sod, or rip up the old stuff and replace with new, as I prefer to do.

Before laying the sod, moisten the area. Newly laid sod requires water at least once a day. A few spots in my yard had to be watered twice a day for three or four days to keep the sod from drying out. The few rain showers we had helped also.

I purchased a good hose-end oscillating sprinkler. I didn't want to use my in-ground irrigation system because I would have been watering established grass at the same time I was watering the new grass. With the hose-end sprinkler I can be more selective about where and how much water is applied. Once the grass is established, I will return to my irrigation system.

After the new sod was laid, we waited two weeks before mowing. It was well-rooted at that time. Next fall I plan to thatch the entire yard to get rid of the buildup on top of the soil.

Not all of the removed sod was replaced with new sod. As I have written before, I am adding a wildlife garden to my back yard, which has now been expanded. Last column I told you about the kiwi and black and gold raspberries in this area. In addition, the last two weeks I have added a few herbs: standard, lemon, purple leaf and cajun basil, three types of thyme, three types of sage, oregano and bronze fennel. A small rosemary topiary in a clay pot is placed on a table in the sitting area of the garden.

The three golden dewdrop plants with their blue-and-white flowers and yellow fruits attract butterflies and birds. Birds will enjoy the Catley guava and sernum cherry, although I hope they leave a few for me also. A ground cover _ creeping Charlie, with its profusion of yellow flowers _ is already attracting butterflies.

The bare ground was quickly drying out around my new plants, so I wanted to get it mulched. To save money and to use organic materials readily accessible, I borrowed 10 large wheelbarrows full of oak leaves from a neighbor. He composts his leaves by just letting them sit for about a year and uses this black gold throughout his garden. I took this year's leaves and promised to help him rack some this fall and winter.

This weekend I will spray all the plants with a weak solution of liquid fertilizer to give them a boost.

I only planted two tomato plants and one pepper plant this spring. Something is getting to the pepper plant's leaves. Tonight I will take a flashlight and investigate. With just the three vegetable plants, it is easy to hand-pick the pests; no chemical spraying is necessary. After I finish my other gardening, I will concentrate on a few more winter and spring vegetables.

Cleaning up the established beds in the yards was another priority. A young oak tree and an established maple had a few bottom branches removed to provide a little more sun to the underplantings. The plumeria and what I call my wild rose have been pruned into shape. The rose was a grafted hybrid that died and started growing from the rootstock, so I have no idea what it is. But it provides a multitude of medium-size red blooms, so I leave it alone except for an occasional pruning. I never spray it and, come to think of it, haven't fertilized it in a couple of years. I'll include it this weekend when I fertilize.

Weeds have been removed since they can be unsightly and compete with the desired plants for water and nutrients. The mulch is still a good 2 inches thick, so I just raked it around instead of adding more.

Most of the spring heavy work is done and I have made a point of sitting in my new wildlife garden or the more established butterfly garden each evening. The butterfly garden is about 2 years old and my spring cleanup included trimming and also moving some plants into the new planting area. Large clumps of oregano transplanted nicely.

Get out in the garden and do those chores that can't wait, but take the time to enjoy the landscape too. Looking at a magazine and sipping a cup of tea in a cozy corner of your garden in the early evening can easily becoming a stress-breaking habit.