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Now's the time to begin your garden (Released: 4/29/96)

by Renu Sehgal, Office of University Communications.

STORRS, Conn. -- Now that moderate temperatures have returned, it's the best time to begin your garden, according to experts at the University of Connecticut.

Get out the rototiller and turn your garden or lawn about six to eight inches into the ground, said Paul Stake, educator at the UConn Cooperative Extension System in Norwich.

It's also a good time to get a soil test done to determine the level of nutrients, he said. The system sells kits for $5 and will issue a report on nutrients and pH as well as make recommendations on improving the soil.

When you are ready to plant, stick to the plan for your landscape and remember how much room your plants will need to grow. ''Make sure the garden area has plenty of sun, especially for those making a new garden area,'' Stake said. ''Very few things do well in the shade.''

To achieve a great looking lawn, remember some key points about mowing.

The lawn mowing season in Connecticut lasts six or seven months because cool-season grass has two cycles of growth -- one in spring and the other in fall. In the early spring, mowing is necessary every three to four days because grass grows rapidly. But as the air and soil temperatures increase and soil moisture becomes limited, grass growth decreases so mowing is only necessary once every 10 to 12 days. Grass growth will increase again in the fall as the day length decreases and temperatures drop. But the growth won't be as rapid as in the spring. It is important to base your mowing schedule on how your lawn looks, not on the day of the week.

Cut only about a third of the total grass foliage in any one mowing. Mowing too low will produce a bleached, shallow-rooted, weakened turf susceptible to disease and weeds. Mowing too high will result in a ragged appearance, thatch accumulation and possibly thin turf. Do not mow grass that is wet with dew or rain -- wait until the grass dries for easier and faster mowing.

Grass clippings do not need to be removed if only a third of the foliage has been cut. The clippings will be short enough to dry and disappear into the ground, adding organic matter and plant nutrients to the soil after it decomposes.

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