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If you need plans for the weekend, attend the University of South Florida Botanical Gardens' Tropical Plant Fair.

Vendors will sell rare as well as popular fruit trees and exotic plants. An 11 a.m. workshop on Saturday presented by the International Rare Fruit Council will cover fruit tree basics.

At noon Saturday, the group presents a fern workshop. Any one who brings a decorated pepper to enter into the Pepper Beauty Contest gets in free on Sunday. There will be lectures both days on growing tropical plants.

Admission is $5 for those 12 and up. Garden members get in free. The event takes place Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The USF Botanical Garden, at 2210 USF Pine Drive, is near the southwest corner of the USF campus, at the intersection of Pine and Alumni drives off Bruce B. Downs Boulevard. For more information, visit

If you purchase plants at the event, make sure you plant them as soon as possible. Take a look around your yard, including containers, and see where you might need a splash of tropical color before you head to USF.

Once you are back home, there will be plenty to do in your yard. There has been enough rain lately to cause a tremendous growth spurt to the lawn. You've probably noticed that mowing your lawn once a week really isn't enough. Although the grass is growing faster than we can keep up with, it may not necessarily be in good condition.

If you find the rate of growth is quick enough but the grass isn't green enough, don't add more nitrogen (which is usually what people do), add iron. Iron is a micronutrient that is important in chlorophyll synthesis. An iron deficiency causes yellowing between the veins with eventual loss of most chlorophyll. The quickest and easiest way to apply iron is with a liquid formula. Mix according to package directions, and spray on the lawn. A greener lawn should be apparent in just a few days.

If you notice a circular or semi-circular pattern of dying grass, you are probably looking at a fungus. It is rampant this time of year and can quickly turn a great lawn into an ugly one. Controlling a fungus usually takes two to three applications of a fungicide.

Both liquid and granular fungicide are available at large garden centers. Read the label carefully, and apply accordingly.

Expanding, irregular patches of dead or stunted grass surrounded by a halo of yellowing, dying grass often provide the first clue to the presence of chinch bugs. Chinch bug damage can be difficult to distinguish from that caused by drought. Detection of significant numbers of the insects themselves is the best proof that chinch bugs are the cause of the damage.

Adult southern chinch bugs are small and slender, one-sixth to one-fifth of an inch long. They have black bodies with white wings. Each wing bears a distinctive, triangular black mark. Normally, some of the adults at any given site will have full-sized, functional wings, whereas other individuals will be short-winged and incapable of flight. Recently hatched nymphs are wingless, yellow or pinkish-red, with a light-colored band across their backs. After each molt, the nymphs more closely resemble the adults. Before the last molt, nymphs are black or brownish-black and have a white spot and two small wing pads on their backs. Chinch bugs are found most readily in the weakened, yellowing grass around a dead spot in the lawn.

Purchase an insecticide labeled to control chinch bugs and use according to the directions. Applying too much can cause damage to both your turf and the environment.

Keeping your lawn healthy and green this summer requires vigilance. The sooner you recognize and treat for diseases and insects the better off your lawn will be.

Mary Collister can be reached at