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Seeds of wisdom gleaned from garden this season

I've said before that one appealing aspect of gardening is the opportunity to continue learning new things. I thought I'd share a few things with you that I learned this season (or was reminded about).

A 70-pound Labrador puppy very quickly destroys a bed of scented geraniums while frolicking through the garden. But she sure smells good the rest of the day!

It's labor intensive (requiring watering sometimes twice a day) to use clay pots less than 10 inches in diameter in the garden. I'll be using bigger containers from now on.

Another thing about pots in the garden . . . snakes love to coil around the bottom of them, so be prepared when you move the pots.

Although I was told that dwarf Mexican petunias reseed readily, it took mine three years to reseed one small plant. I'd just about given up.

Kiwi are also unpredictable. Mine show beautiful foliage but no flowers or fruit yet. I was a little forgetful about fertilizing; maybe that's the problem.

Extra attention to peach trees and blueberries pays off with bountiful harvests. Watch closely the watering, insect control and fertilizer routine.

I didn't watch the blue salvia very closely and found that with minimal water and no supplemental fertilizer after planting, they never did fill out. Last year eight plants grew at least three times as big with a little TLC. Next planting I'll be more diligent.

What was I thinking, trying to remove sod in the summer heat? That's a project best left for fall or winter.

I'm still trying to catch up with the weeds that took over during my recent vacation. I'm down to just two beds in the back.

Many container plants in the back need to be replaced, and I'll probably wait until it cools off a little before planting some marigolds. When I take cuttings from my herbs and perennials, I'll plant some marigold seeds also. I'm going to use peat pots to make transplanting easy.

I've noticed yellow leaves on many of my perennials so I'll use a foliar application of a water-soluble fertilizer to give them a boost. I've been neglectful about feeding my plants this summer and it shows with the yellow leaves as well as less bushy growth. I'll trim back a bit and give a good application of fertilizer to quickly force some new growth.

I'll also give a deep watering; I've been waiting for the rains but they seem to be moving around my house. The less drought-tolerant plants are suffering a bit.

The lawn is in good shape except for some nutsedge _ a truly pesky weed! We had a commercial application of weed killer applied and will repeat the process in another month. With hope that will at least slow the weeds down. I don't want the grass growing any faster than it is, so we'll add iron to green it up without causing excessive leaf growth.

With all this hot weather, it's enough just to maintain the status quo in the landscaper.

Starr Conner in Carrollwood wrote to me about a problem with her hibiscus. She has five healthy bushes, but one seems to drop about eight buds for every one that stays on the bush and blooms. The bushes are fertilized correctly and she keeps them bug free.

She seems to be doing everything right. Since four of the five bushes are responding to her care, I tend to think it's just the nature of the odd bush. Hibiscus is a plant that has been cultivated for years with hundreds of cultivars created. It might just be that the particular shrub has that tendency bred into it. That wouldn't have been done purposely, but it might be a cultivar developed in someone's back yard.

If Conner finds this characteristics too annoying, she might have to remove the offending plant or just realize there is nothing she can do to improve the situation and enjoy the blooms she does have.

For those of you with troubled hibiscus, these pointers might help you out. Plants require good drainage. Plants also need sun, heat and protection from frost and wind. They usually don't hold up to ocean breezes. In our warm, inland areas, they appreciate partial shade from the hot afternoon sun.

Feed hibiscus monthly (container plants twice a month) from April through September. Let growth harden after that. Water deeply and frequently. All varieties are quite susceptible to aphids. If there are just a few insects present, wash them off with a strong stream of water with a little dish washing soap.

Heavy infestation might require an insecticide. Prune as needed to maintain shape. With a little care, hibiscus can be a very colorful addition to your landscape.

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