<b>Jessica Caldwell of Windsor asks:</b> I have some beautiful basil growing, but now it is starting to flower. Shall I cut these flowers off or just leave them? Will the plants continue to grow leaves or no?

As basil grows, it will get so big and then start to produce spikes of lavender-pink or white flowers. The flowers are not a good sign for basil lovers. Once the plants start flowering, they put fewer resources toward foliage production and more towards flower and seed production. This results in smaller, stronger, more acrid tasting leaves, so it is best to pick off the flower buds as they appear to keep plants from blooming.

<b>Jennifer B. of Santa Rosa asks:</b> My husband and I are planning on a little summer vacation. Do you have some helpful do's and don't's for our friend who will be tending to our garden while we're away? Specifically what really needs to be done and what can wait.

Do prepare a list of garden chores to be done while you're away.

Do plan to have your lawn mowed if you'll be away for more than 7-10 days. Your garden helper doesn't need to fine-tune every square inch of grass the way you would, but it's wise to keep the lawn at the proper mowing height so you don't come home to an overgrown jungle of grass! Make sure the lawn mower has gas.

Make sure they harvest any ripe vegetables or fruit from your garden. What a waste to let ripening edibles rot on the vine. Share your bounty while you vacation!

Do have all the needed tools handy! Make sure hoses are attached to spigots, sprinklers are nearby, and so on.

How often will the potted plants need watering, if there are any? Timers attached to faucets can come in very handy, and save time for those areas that are not on drip and need a good soaking with a sprinkler. They can just move the hose where needed and set the timer.

Don't fret over a few weeds that might pop up while you're away. Chances are they can be easily handled when you return. But if you trust your garden helper to pull weeds, then by all means, let them have at it!

Don't worry about liquid-feeding your annuals or vegetables while you're gone, either. This is something that you can do before you leave, especially if it's been a while since you fertilized, and if your plants are showing that they need a little boost.

Don't be too upset if a few plants didn't make it while you're away. It happens. Annuals and vegetables should be the least priority in the garden. Top priority: Make sure that your lawn, trees, shrubs, and perennials are cared for. Those are your biggest investments.

It goes without saying that if you don't plan for good garden care while you're away, you shouldn't expect much when you return. Plan for your garden like you'd plan for your vacation itself, and make sure the garden helper you're hiring has some knowledge of plants.

<i>Send your gardening questions to The Garden Doctors at pdgardendoctor@gmail.com. The Garden Doctors, Gwen Kilchherr and Dana Lozano, can answer questions only through their column, which appears twice a month in the newspaper and online at pressdemocrat.com.</i>