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Originally published Thursday, May 21, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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In the Garden

Ciscoe Morris advises to plant brussel sprouts now, and more

Plant Brussels sprouts now; prune the lilacs after they bloom; get your plant sale bargains in the ground now.

Special to The Seattle Times

This has been a banner year for lilac blooms, but if you don't prune, next year could be a dud. That's because the trees often exhaust themselves forming seed and then take a year off from heavy flowering to renew their energy. Remove the flower heads as soon as the blooms fade by cutting back just above a pair of leaves. That will stimulate new shoots to grow and form next year's flower buds.

Since lilacs usually tend to get taller than desired, this is a good time to limit height as well, by cutting back a few of the tallest stems and vigorous side branches lower down in the tree. Remember that flowers are produced on growth that occurred in the previous season, so don't cut back too many branches down hard or you'll pay for the reduction in size with reduced flowering next spring.

Plant new purchases now

If you're like me, you've got about 7 gazillion spectacular trees, shrubs and perennial treasures that you brought home from a plant sales sitting in your driveway, and you have no idea where you're going to put them. Do your best to get them in the ground. Plants hate sitting in pots, and they won't last long in the driveway.

In the meantime, remember to water them daily and if there will be a long delay before you can plant them, consider potting them up into a bigger container. Make a goal to plant them all by the end of next week.

Give sprouts

a chance

Why is it that in almost every couple, one person loves them, while the other detests them? OK, all of you Brussels sprout detractors: It's time to give these little love nibbles another try. No vegetable offers more health benefits than Brussels sprouts, and no one can resist Brussels sprouts cut in half and roasted on the grill.

Brussels sprouts taste best and are sweeter after they have endured a couple of light frosts; hence the best time to sow the seed is mid-May through mid-June so that they ripen in late fall. Sow the seed ¼ inch deep, 6 inches apart in rows 24 inches apart. Thin to 24 inches apart within the row when the seedlings reach about 3 inches tall. At the same time, work in about ½ cup of organic vegetable food around each remaining plant. The worst thing about growing Brussels sprouts is that huge populations of aphids often find their way into the sprouts. Prevent this by giving the plant a daily powerful blast of water from the hose nozzle during the period when sprouts are forming.

Ciscoe Morris: "Gardening with Ciscoe" airs at 10 a.m. Saturdays on KING-TV.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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About In the Garden

Ciscoe Morris' column runs Thursdays. His show "Gardening with Ciscoe" airs at 10 a.m. on Saturdays on King 5.

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