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Articles by Dr. Francis Gouin

There’s good science to my advice

My annual recommendation for lawns is cut it tall and let it fall. To understand why cutting height makes a difference, consider that each blade of grass is a factory.
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Not too much, not too little

Many home gardeners plant trees and shrubs only to lose them to improper watering. For instance, you do not need to water newly transplanted plants daily. By doing so, you are drowning the roots and killing the plants.
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It’s not big plants you’re after

Last fall I met a Bay Weekly reader who had perfected the art of growing big tomato plants. Without testing the soil in his 1,500-square-foot garden, he spread half of a bag of 10-10-10, about 20 pounds. While planting his tomatoes, he added a handful of urea fertilizer, which contains 46 percent nitrogen. He used the same planting method for peppers.
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It’s a lesson for life

Children learn so much about life from working in the garden. Watching a seed germinate and develop into a plant, then watching that plant develop and produce flowers, fruits and more seeds teaches them the cycle of life. Sowing seeds of different crops and watching them develop into different shapes, flowers, fruits and vegetables teaches them that variability is as common in plants as it is in humans.
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Early bloomers have been going wild; now’s the time to tame them

If you did not get a chance to prune your plants earlier this spring, you have a second opportunity, especially for pruning crabapple, cherry and shade trees. Pruning these trees now will lessen the heavy growth of suckers originating from the base of the plants and from around the large cuts you make to prune the plant to the desirable shape....

Are you guilty?

Looking out from the window of my room at Heritage Harbor Rehabilitation Center, I see mountains of mulch suffocating the trees. The sight is enough to undo my promising rehab after falling off a ladder while cleaning gutters on May 13.
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But I have no pity for pruners who butcher this beautiful summer-flowering species

I am appalled at the way homeowners are pruning their crape myrtles. I can only explain it as Monkey See Monkey Do. Just because you see somebody else — even landscape maintenance companies — cutting crape myrtle like dock pilings, it does not mean that they know what they are doing.
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If you can’t kill this prolific weed, you can eat it

If chickweed is a problem in your yard, you are not heeding my advice. Follow my two precepts — have your soil tested and cut your grass tall while letting it fall — and you will eventually conquer chickweed.
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I was raised in the garden

My mother had three flower gardens, and my dad cared for the vegetable garden when we lived in Laconia, New Hampshire. The garden between the sidewalk and the foundation of the house was approximately two feet wide and 15 feet long. Here mother planted annuals that she started from seeds on the sun porch using discarded egg cartons....

 From low places to high

Governor Martin and First Lady Katie O’Malley may not be aware that in 1985 I tried to convince the gardeners in charge of the state properties in Annapolis to apply compost to the turf. The idea was met with great resistance because the gardeners thought it would take too much time, and they did not believe it would improve the turf.
    We’d already been turned down in higher places.
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