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Proper harvest of vegetables has generated a lot of interest these days. There's no sense letting a little ignorance or inattention keep you from enjoying the crop in which you've labored so diligently.

But first, proper care can extend the beauty of your garden as well. With a little work now, flowers will reward you with that riot of color until cool weather ends their reign.Petunias usually look pretty scraggly as bloom stems elongate. With shears or a knife, cut plants to about half size, spread a cup of ammonium sulfate (2100-0) fertilizer per 50 square feet and water thoroughly. You'll be without color temporarily, but as buds form again, the pain of the drastic surgery will diminish quickly. Spray with thuricide or dipel to prevent tobacco budworm damage.

Zinnias develop powdery mildew as cooler weather arrives. Keep them "deadheaded" by removing spent blossoms, encourage vigor with the same fertilizer as for petunias and spray with wettable sulfur or benlate to prevent mildew. You can't cure the disease after leaves turn white.

Geraniums should have spent bloom clusters removed. If they are the seed-grown type, developing heads will look unattractive and brown and energy will be diverted from future flower production.

Dahlias and marigolds need a little fertilizer to keep growth and blooms coming. Clean off faded flowers if they get unsightly.

Now to the vegetables that need regular harvest to maintain future production and to be of high quality. Beans, cucumbers and summer squash will have a very short season unless you pick frequently. Oversize fruit that forms seeds gives the plants the signal that their life process is over and blooming comes to a halt.

Tomatoes aren't quite that finicky about harvest, but for processing, fruit is best when it's on the firm side, not soft, red ripe. Remember, for safe home canned tomatoes, use modern tested recipes and follow the proper processing time.

Many gardeners, both experienced and novice, are in a quandary over determining harvest time on certain crops. Here are some guidelines:

- Cantaloupes: They almost always give themselves away! The stem "slips" or separates easily from a ready-to-harvest fruit as you apply a little pressure. By this time the netting is well developed and the skin becomes yellow or tan.

- Watermelon: Not as easy! Having an idea about the size will help. Maybe by referring to a seed catalog you'll know whether it's an icebox type or a full-size fruit. Look at the area where the melon rests on the ground. The white color should turn cream or yellow to indicate ripeness. The "pigtail" tendril at the stem end should be brown.

These three characteristics are a pretty good guide to ripeness. Expert watermelon pickers add another method - thumping. A mature watermelon has a characteristic sound. A high pitched "ping" indicates a green watermelon. A low "punk" means its about right. If it's a dull "thud," the flesh may be grainy with hollow areas characteristic of an overripe fruit.

Don't be too surprised if your testing procedure isn't 100 percent reliable. With the limited amount of fruit in an average garden and the short season each year, it's difficult to develop real expertise in this area.

- Peaches: will soften slightly on the trees as they approach maturity. The background green skin color will lighten to yellow as the red cheek intensifies. Pick by using the whole finger not just the tips which might bruise the tender fruit. When they're ripe, peaches will slip from the tree with a slight twist. If you have to tug, they're not ready. Peaches will soften but not gain in quality after harvest.

-OPEN HOUSE - The traditional Labor Day open house at the Utah Botanical Gardens will be held Saturday, Sept. 2, at 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Hwy. 89 in Farmington, just north of Lagoon. The seven acre grounds are ablaze with colorful flowers. Debbie Admundsen, Utah State University horticulturalist, and her crew have grown and planted several thousand annuals of about 200 varieties. There are also 200 to 300 varieties of perennial flowers. These, along with about 500 trees and shrubs can give you some ideas about landscaping your home or business.

At 12:30 p.m. I'll discuss gardening principles that I've practiced to produce quality vegetables and attractive flowers in some 25-30 Hatch Patch gardens in the past 8 years.

At 11 a.m., Roger Whitaker, State Arboretum of Utah, will enlighten us about perennial flowers.

Jo Ann Mathis, USU Extension Home Economist for Davis County, will share the latest home canning practices for protecting family health at 2 p.m.

Shawn Olsen, Davis County Extension Agent, has established a demonstration garden on the grounds. Here you'll be able to observe some of the innovative methods that he is testing.

Master gardeners will be available to answer questions and direct you to the various areas of the garden.

And speaking of melons, Dr. Hamson will dispel the idea that northern Utah is not melon growing country. His traditional watermelon and cantaloupe slices will be available for tasting.

-WATER NEEDS: Lawns and gardens will require 1 1/2 inches of water this week.