Warm-cold swings can be harmful

Garden Q&A

January 18, 1998

I'm worried about the effects of the recent warm weather on my landscape. My forsythia started blooming, my peach buds are swollen, and some of my daffodils are coming up. Will I have any flowers or peaches in the spring?

Any exposed flowers and swollen or green buds will probably be killed by the return of colder temperatures. Your daffodils have tough leaves, however, and should be OK.

The death of a small number of flowers on a large shrub (forsythia) or tree won't detract from the floral display in spring. The larger problem is the breaking of dormancy of evergreen trees and shrubs caused by the unusually warm weather in early January.

A return to freezing temperatures and windy conditions can cause winter burn or foliar desiccation of plants such as Southern magnolia, Japanese holly, rhododendrons and azaleas. Spraying these plants with an anti-desiccant material (Wilt-Pruf, for example) can help prevent winter damage.

I moved to Baltimore recently from Pennsylvania and can't wait to get my vegetable garden started. I want to go back home and dig up some rhubarb to plant in my new garden. When is the best time to divide and transplant rhubarb?

In early March, dig up the entire crown of the plant to be divided. Use a spade or hatchet to split the crown into fist-size pieces. Remove by hand the brown leaf sheaths and then re-plant the pieces as soon as possible in rich, deep soil.

Pieces that you bring back to Baltimore should be wrapped in moist newspaper and placed inside a perforated plastic bag. Refrigerate the crowns if you can't transplant them right away.

Garden tips are provided by the Home and Garden Information Center of the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Maryland. For additional information on these questions, or if you have questions of your own, call the center's hot line at 800-342-2507 or visit its Web site at http://www.agnr.umd.edu/hgic.

Checklist

* Make a plan to rotate the crops in your vegetable garden. This is especially important if you have had disease problems.

* Turn your compost piles on mild days to give them an aerobic workout and hasten decomposition.

Pub Date: 1/18/98

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