Many perennial, annual vines can decorate a privacy fence

BACKYARD Q&A

March 25, 2001

Q. We have a 6-foot-high wooden privacy fence surrounding our back patio. Are there some low-maintenance vines I can plant this spring that will cover the fence without destroying it?

A. There are many attractive, nonfussy vines you can select from. Some perennial vines that might work for you include clematis, sweet pea, climbing roses, hops (try the new variegated 'Sunbeam' variety) and mandevilla ('Alice DuPont' variety).

Flowering annual vines include morning glory, moonflower, cardinal flower, hyacinth bean, scarlet runner bean and thunbergia. The annual vines can be grown in containers or beds dug next to the fence. The perennial vines should be planted in beds.

Q. Is it too early to start tomato and eggplant transplants indoors? Also, is it OK to start cucumbers and squash indoors?

A. Gardeners in central Maryland should try to have 6- to 8-week-old tomato, pepper and eggplant transplants ready to set out in the garden by May 15. Keep your plants just 1 to 2 inches below cool, white fluorescent tubes to keep them stocky and give each plant at least 10 square inches of growing space. You can start squash and cucumber plants around April 15-20--- three to four weeks before you're ready to set them out. Handle the roots of these vegetable plants very carefully to minimize transplant shock.

THIS WEEK'S CHECKLIST

1. Plant hardy fig varieties such as 'Celeste,' 'Brown Turkey' and 'Hardy Chicago.' Fig plants are attractive and have few pest problems, and you only need one plant to produce figs. But you will need to protect your fig plants over the winter.

2. Pre-emergent crabgrass herbicide can be applied between mid-March and the first week in April.

Backyard Q&A is by Jon Traunfeld, regional specialist for the Home and Garden Information Center, Maryland Cooperative Extension Services 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 www.agnr.umd.edu / users / hgic.

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