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Carmageddon: 10 summer garden projects for the freeway-averse this weekend

July 15, 2011 |  9:23 am

Garden We've given the week off to Emily Green, our sustainable-gardening writer whose column, The Dry Garden, usually appears here on Friday. In her place, we offer 10 ideas for spending a summer day in the garden. July may not be prime planting season, but it's a fine time to get some other projects done:

1. Give rock a role. Learn the art of using stone in the garden, be it a mammoth boulder or a stack of native granite. Also read Green's column about why gravel rocks: It keeps sun-baked soil cooler, hold weeds at bay and reduces the need for watering.

2. Prepare for hotter days ahead. We know they're coming, eventually. Expert advice on getting the garden prepared for the next heat wave.

3. Prune sages. If those spires of purple flowers on your Mexican sage have dried up, don't be shy. It's OK to prune the plant and other types of salvias in summer.

4. Clip poppies. Those who love California poppies strategically harvest seed and thin out deadwood. The result: More bursts of orange blooms next time around.

5. Save your tomato seeds. Learn how to save seeds as Green explains why summer is the best time to grow tomatoes, even though here in sunny L.A., it's possible to start them in the fall.

6. Don't plant a vertical garden. Resist the novelty. Here's why.

7. Kill your lawn. Consider the best ways to end the cycle of watering and mowing.

8. Replace your lawn. Advice on alternatives abounds. Green's recommended reading includes a book titled "Reimagining the California Lawn," which discusses meadows, succulent gardens and multicolored and textured groundcover treatments called "tapestry gardens."

9. Audit your lawn. If your family has lawn, uses it often and doesn't intend on giving it up, consider water-wise ways to manage it better.

10. Do nothing. Or at least work toward a garden that requires you to do less. The benefits of a less-manicured, more natural landscape include more time to stop, smell the roses and be thankful you're not on the freeways.

-- Craig Nakano

Photo: Kangaroo paw. Credit: Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times