Norway spruce, Eastern red cedar provide a nice screen for backyard

Backyard Q&A

October 27, 2002|By Dennis Bishop | Dennis Bishop,Special to the Sun

We would like to plant some pine trees as a screen in our back yard. Do you recommend the Austrian pine for this purpose, or is there a better tree?

The Austrian pine is a coarse, thick, dark evergreen tree that in its younger years provides a nice large-scale screen. However, like many other pines (white pine, Scotch pine, etc.), it drops lower branches as it matures, and at full maturity it may have only a few very high branches. So they make a good screen initially, but are not a good screen for the long term. In the long term, you would probably be better off with Norway spruce. Norway spruce is not a perfect tree, but it does make an effective screen. Another plant to consider is the Eastern red cedar. This native plant will also drop its lower branches over time, but will provide a nice screen for many years. It is also very easy to grow.

I recently heard that CCA-treated lumber has been banned from the market and will no longer be available for residential construction. Is this true, and what will be used to replace it?

Yes, this is true, but it is apparently being done with the full cooperation of the lumber industry. An EPA announcement in February called the ban a "voluntary decision by industry" to get arsenic out of the treatment process. After December 31, 2003, CCA-treated lumber will not be permitted for use in play structures, decks, picnic tables, landscaping timbers, residential fencing, patios and walkways or boardwalks. Apparently, the pressure-treatment process will continue, but the chemical used in the process will change. Alkaline copper quat (ACQ) is one of the chemicals that will replace CCA.

Another alternative is the so-called "plastic wood" that is composed of recycled plastic and wood fibers. Plastic wood is readily available, but the cost is around double that of treated lumber. Also, when used as a decking material, plastic wood will sag unless the joist spacing is reduced. It is recommended that joists be placed on 12-inch centers with plastic wood.


1. Garlic cloves can be planted now. Select the largest cloves and plant them 4 inches deep and 6 inches apart in fertile soil. Mulch the plants heavily with leaves after they emerge.

2. Cut back dahlias and cannas and lift them out of the ground for storage in an unheated basement or garage.

3. Make your second application of one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of fescue or bluegrass lawn.

Dennis Bishop is an urban horticulture educator for the Baltimore office of the Maryland Cooperative Extension. 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,

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