Q. My tulips did very poorly last spring, so I purchased some new bulbs and dug the old bulbs up last week. As I pulled them out, I noticed that many were rotting. Can I plant new bulbs in this same area?
A. If you plant in the same area, you will likely have the same problem. Tulip bulb rot disease is caused by several soil-borne fungi that persist in the soil. The disease is worst in moist, poorly drained soils.
I would prepare a new area for your bulbs that has well-drained, loamy soil. This will favor healthy tulip growth instead of the disease. You might try replanting the old area with daffodils or other spring bulbs. However, before planting, I would be sure to improve drainage by digging in an abundance of organic matter.
Q. We would like to begin using more organic gardening methods in our garden and eventually have an all-organic garden. Do you have any suggestions for how we might get started?
A. I would begin with a thorough study of the organic gardening method. The principles of organic gardening are simple and natural. However, successful organic gardening requires a lot of knowledgeable planning. If you invest in the studying and the planning, you will be rewarded. If you do not, you will likely fail.
Q. We would like to put down some landscape fabric to prevent weeds in our shrub beds, but are concerned about how it might affect the shrubs. Will the fabric harm the shrubs?
A. Landscape fabrics should do little or no harm to your shrubs, however, I have found them to be much more trouble than they are worth. The exception would be when they are used to underlie gravel pathways. In most other cases weeds will soon begin to grow in the mulch on top of the fabric. In addition, once the fabric is installed, it is very hard to dig through. This makes it difficult to add new plants in later years.
THIS WEEK'S CHECKLIST
1. Done with your lawn equipment for the season? Be sure to drain the gas from the fuel systems. Gas left in the system can foul the carburetor and cause problems next spring.
2. No need to throw away your fallen pine needles. They can be used as a mulch to protect tender plants or can be worked into ground cover beds.
3. When planting a balled and burlap tree, be sure to remove the burlap from the top of the root ball. If the ball is solid, all of the burlap can be carefully removed.
Dennis Bishop is an urban horticulture educator for the Baltimore office of the Maryland Cooperative Extension Services. If you have a gardening or pest problem, you can call the Home and Garden Information Center hot line (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.) at 800-342-2507. You can also e-mail questions, order publications and diagnose plant problems by visiting the Web site, www.agnr.umd.edu / users / hgic.