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Following are a few tips – in several topic areas – based on my experiences, some emanating from good experience, others from lessons (sometimes painfully) learned.

Lawns

Mow at the one-third rule (removing no more than 33 percent of the blade at each mowing event) to avoid scalping. Removing more can severely injure turf and reduce its ability to resist environmental stress.

At some point, one must accept there will be weeds in the lawn. I have concluded comedian Dave Barry was spot on when he said, "Crabgrass can grow on bowling balls in airless rooms, and there is no known way to kill it that does not involve nuclear weapons." Don’t use nuclear weapons and don’t overdo the herbicide lest you kill other plants, like your neighbor’s favorite perennial.

Trees

Painting tree wounds and pruning cuts was common years ago. But, research indicates the practice slows a tree’s natural healing process. The best way to avoid damage is to make a clean cut with sharp tools. When properly pruned, a tree will use its natural defense mechanisms to ward off decay.

Perennials

When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, you can be reasonably confident it was a valuable plant.

Container pots

Adding a layer of gravel or other coarse material in the bottom of containers will NOT improve drainage. In fact, such material hinders movement of water through the potting soil. Adding to the problem, the so-called drainage material can take up valuable space when used in a small container, leaving inadequate space for roots.

The term “self-cleaning plant” does not mean it cleans up after itself on the deck or patio; it just means the plant is self-deadheading … all over the deck or patio.

When the watering can is full of water, but no water comes out when tipped, set the can down and watch or – if you are brave – look inside. Frogs get in the watering cans on my deck; when I pour, a tubby frog can get stuck in the spout. Smaller ones just squirt on through.

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Landscaping

When buying or building a new house, include in the budgeting plan the cost for landscaping so you can plant trees, shrubs, perennials, etc.

Take a long view in planning and planting; some of what we initially plant may look odd because of huge spaces around tiny bushes and small trees. But keep in mind the size they will grow to be and space accordingly, or use annuals to fill in temporarily.

General

Watch where you are walking when traipsing about on the lawn. I nearly stepped on a garter snake (which startled both the snake and me) and, on another occasion, a frog. I don’t know about you, but neither is something I want to step on.

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Mari Lane Gewecke is a Master Gardener volunteer, affiliated with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus program, and a self-employed consultant.

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L Magazine editor

Mark Schwaninger is L magazine and Neighborhood Extra editor.

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