Cutting rose roots in half should actually help growth

BACKYARD Q&A

May 07, 2000

Q. My sister planted five rose bushes that I ordered through the mail last week and she cut the roots in half to get the plants to fit in the holes I dug. I don't see them growing and am worried we killed them.

A. Don't worry. Trimming the roots in half actually helps to stimulate an otherwise healthy young rose bush to put out new feeder roots. Lightly fertilize with a balanced fertilizer containing nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium and keep the root system moist. You will soon see new shoots emerge.

Q. Two large branches of my apple tree seem to be dead and have small holes shaped like the letter D. I'm wondering if the holes were made by insects. What can I do about this problem?

A. The holes were made by the flatheaded apple- tree borer, which attacks stressed trees. Eggs are laid in spring, and larvae tunnel into and feed in sapwood. If your tree has been neglected in recent years (was not watered during the past three droughty summers) it may be in steady decline. Promptly remove the infested limbs and try to maintain good tree health through proper pruning, watering and fertilization. Monitor the trunk and limbs of your tree for further signs of borer injury this summer.

Q. I've heard people talk about "hardening off" plants in the spring. What does it really mean and is it absolutely necessary?

A. Hardening off transplants helps to condition young transplants grown indoors or in greenhouses to tolerate the vagaries of spring weather in the garden. It is not absolutely necessary but is helpful, especially for such tender plants as tomato, pepper and zinnia. The process involves moving transplants outdoors, in a protected spot, for several hours each day, when you are one week away from transplanting. Cutting back on water and fertilizer a week before transplanting will further harden the plants.

THIS WEEK'S CHECKLIST

1. Plant "baby food" for butterflies. The caterpillars of swallowtails feed on parsley, fennel and dill, and monarchs feed on butterfly weed (Asclepias).

2. Order your copy of the Maryland Master Gardener, a 440-page gardening guide that includes hundreds of color pictures to aid in diagnosing plant problems. Call the number below for more information.

3. Avoid rabbit damage in the vegetable garden by erecting a wire-mesh, 3-foot-high fence that extends several inches below the ground. Sprinkling hot pepper flakes around plants will also deter rabbits.

Garden tips are provided by the Home and Garden Information Center of the Maryland Cooperative Extension. 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 www.agnr.umd.edu/users/hgic.

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