If phosphorus is present, best you can do is avoid fertilizers


March 17, 2002|By Dennis Bishop | Dennis Bishop,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Q. A recent test of my garden soil indicated that the phosphorus levels were excessive. Is this a problem and is there anything I can do to lower the levels?

A. As part of my job, I review all of the University of Maryland soil tests that originate in Baltimore City. Most of them indicate that the soil phosphorus level is excessive. However, in all but extreme cases this should not cause a problem. The phosphorus is largely bound in the soil, and there is little you can do to lower the levels. I would suggest that you do not use fertilizers that contain phosphorus.

Further, I would not fertilize at all if the plants appear healthy.

Q. This winter, deer grazed on a number of trees and shrubs in our landscape. Some of them have been destroyed and we would like to replace them this spring. Are there any plants that deer will not eat?

A. There are several lists of deer-resistant plants in publication.

One of them is at our Web site at http: / / www.agnr.umd. edu / users / hgic / .

The list is part of Fact Sheet #655. You can download the publication for free. Or you can call the Home and Garden Information Center and they will mail you a copy. The number is below. The list is a very valuable resource for selecting landscape plants in areas where deer are a nuisance. Keep in mind that these lists are relative; when deer populations are high and food sources are low, they may begin to eat some of the resistant plants. However, if you choose your new plants carefully, you can significantly reduce the deer grazing in your yard.


1. Be sure to cut back your ornamental grasses and other perennials before spring plant growth begins. The warm weather could bring some plants out of the ground early.

2. Get your cultivating tools sharpened. Sharp cultivators work easier, and when early weeds come, you will be prepared.

3. It is time to get seeds planted for your summer vegetables. Most plants take six weeks to get ready. If they are started now, they will be ready around May 1.

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.

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