Don't mess with daffodil foliage -- it's working on next year's growth

Backyard Q&A

April 14, 2002|By Dennis Bishop | By Dennis Bishop,Special to the Sun

Q. When my daffodils have finished blooming this spring, I would like to plant the bed with annual flowers. Can I tie up the foliage to tidy up the area and make room for the annuals?

A. I would not recommend tying up the foliage for the same reason that cutting back the foliage is not recommended. The foliage is where food reserves are produced. The food is then transported to the bulb where it is stored for next year's growth. The food is produced through the process of photosynthesis. When the foliage is tied up, only a very small portion of the leaves are exposed to the sun and photosynthesis is greatly reduced. Therefore, adequate food reserves are not produced and the bulbs are diminished. I would allow the foliage to die back naturally and plant the annuals around the remaining foliage.

Q. I am a little confused about the correct date for planting my summer annual flowers and vegetables. When will the danger of frost pass in Baltimore?

A. The answer to your question depends upon where you live in the Baltimore area. The daily low temperatures in Baltimore City can be quite different from those in Baltimore County. For example, the average last frost date for the area around the Inner Harbor is April 20, but the average last frost date in some areas of northern Baltimore County is not until May 15. Also, there can be significant differences on the same property. For example, protected areas around the house can be quite a bit warmer than exposed areas away from the house. I would suggest that you use the two dates above as the area extremes, and then choose a planting date that is relative to the location of your planting area.

Q. We would like to plant some fountain grasses around the foundation of our house, but we are not certain which species or cultivar to use. Is there much difference between the various cultivars?

A. The cultivars I have seen are all fairly consistent in form. As the name implies, they all have soft arching stems that make them look like fountains. However, there is quite a bit of difference in the size of the various cultivars at maturity. Though they are all relatively small when compared with other grasses, they can grow anywhere from 1 foot to 3 or 4 feet tall. Also, the seedheads may be somewhat different.

Checklist

1. Use caution when you are working around your flower and shrub beds. Many perennial plants are now emerging from the soil and can be damaged.

2. Now is the best time to purchase new perennial plants for your garden. The new plants should be hardened off and planted as soon as possible.

3. Do you have bare spots in your lawn? Now is a good time to plant new grass seed to fill the areas. Be sure to water the seed daily.

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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