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June 18, 2004

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Publication Date: Friday, June 18, 2004

Garden tips for June Garden tips for June (June 18, 2004)

It's time to change your plant list

By Jack McKinnon

When I was in college I learned hundreds of plants in my plant-identification classes. The plant list I have now is much broader and I think more interesting.

If you have been growing and living with the same plants you grew up with, or even the same plants you were living with five years ago, try some different varieties. You will be surprised and amazed at what is available and how it can bring your garden a new and refreshing feel.

Here are the tips:

1. Learn 10 new plants. Take pictures at arboretums, nurseries and show gardens of plants you might like. Shoot from close up and at a bit of a distance, including a picture of the plant name for identification.

2. Study their characteristics when you get home. You can use your plant encyclopedia like the "Sunset Western Garden Book" or the Internet to get the information on water, sun and care needs.

3. Plan your new theme for your garden. Make a drawing of your garden putting in the plants that you will keep and the new plants you will introduce. If you need to, get a designer to help. Many will work by the hour to help you with color, size and esthetics to make your new look work.

4. Talk to three specialists about the new plants on your list. Nursery people, longtime gardeners and designers all have a great deal of knowledge to share. If you can get them on a walk you will be amazed. Bring a tape recorder.

5. Take a plant identification class. You will learn 125 or so plants. Many of these you will not know, some you will but that is ok: You can ask the teacher lots of questions about care and culture that you may never get anywhere else. Try Foothill, Canada and College of San Mateo for a start.

6. Start slowly if you are overwhelmed. Get just one new species and learn all about it. Then get one more and learn about it.

7. This month in your garden work on controlling weeds before they go to seed. The more you pull now, the less you will have to pull next spring.

8. Stake or cage your tomato plants. All too often they get out of control and the plant and you suffer when the fruit is getting ripe. Better to have them grow up than get broken and rotten on the ground.

9. Plant greens to replace those going to flower. Plant beans, corn, squash, peppers, melons, cucumber and eggplant.

10. For herb planting, here is what I do. I go to the herb section of the nursery and get one of each. I stick them in a strawberry pot with one plant in each little hole putting the biggest in the top area and voila, a total herb garden in a pot.

Good gardening.

Jack McKinnon worked in the Sunset Magazine gardens for 12 years and has been a private garden coach for six years. He recently started a gardening school, "Garden Talks with Jack McKinnon" in Pescadero, CA. He can be reached at 879-3261, or by e-mail at [email protected]

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