APRIL 21-27: In the garden, it's time to...

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Consider electric equipment for smaller jobs to reduce your carbon footprint.

Plant some vegetables. Enough with this will-it-freeze-won't-it-freeze waffling - get some plants in the ground. Time for lettuce, cabbage, and collards from plants; root crops, peas, and leafy greens from seeds. Potatoes from, well, potatoes. It's still too soon for tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and squash, because they all like evening temperatures to hold steady at 55 or above. Plant them in cold soil, and all they do is sulk (yes, that's the technical term). Their root systems aren't able to extract basic nutrients from the cool ground, and as a result, you'll often see purpling on stems and leaves.

Clean up the bulbs. As tulips and daffodils finish blooming, they start losing some of their charm. Remove the dead flowers and stems, but leave the leaves as long as you can stand it, hopefully until they are no longer green (it's the green that indicates they're still doing the whole photosynthesis thing, and are feeding the bulbs to support next year's flowers). In the meantime, while they're still flowering, make labels, noting the tulips' color, and stick the labels into the clumps so they're barely visible. This info might be useful in the fall, when you're deciding where to plant new ones.

Celebrate Earth Day by releasing hydrocarbons, and ... mow the lawn? Because lawn and garden equipment is not routinely equipped with catalytic converters, they contribute to smog and other forms of air pollution. Keep mowers, tillers, weed whackers, and other gas-powered tools tuned up. For smaller jobs, switch to electric-powered devices, being extra careful not to mow the cord the first time (no, that never happened!), or start converting more of your lawn to growing space, so there's less to mow.

smccabe@pennhort.org

Sally McCabe is associate director of community education at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (phsonline.org) and a co-owner of Cobblestone Krautery (www.cobblestonekrautery.com).

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