Many plants make nice hedges but can't be considered kid-proof

BACKYARD Q&A

February 02, 2003|By Dennis Bishop | By Dennis Bishop,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

We would like to have a barrier around our back yard to keep our children from wandering out, but we do not want to build a fence. Can you suggest any flowering shrubs that would work for this purpose?

Please keep in mind that these plants may not keep your children from wandering out. Shrubs purchased for a hedge are typically small and take years to thicken and fill out. Also, many shrubs grow in a vase shape and tend to be much thicker at the top than at the bottom, leaving open spaces through which children can crawl. If you want to be certain that your children stay in the yard, build a fence.

I would like to plant pansies this spring. Can I plant the seed directly in the ground and get flowers for the summer?

If you planted your seeds in early spring, they would likely germinate, grow and produce a few flowers in early summer. However, because pansies are cool-weather plants that do not tolerate summer temperatures, they will decline shortly thereafter. It is unlikely that you would ever get a really good show of flowers.

If you want nice plants for spring and early summer, you will need to start your seeds indoors now and transplant them outside in early spring. Or you could purchase seedlings at a garden center this spring.

Checklist

1. If you are planning to order flower or vegetable seeds through mail-order catalogs, do not delay. Most seeds need to be started four to eight weeks before being planted outdoors.

2. This is the time to start many cool-season vegetable seeds indoors. Plants like spinach can be planted now and transplanted into the garden in March.

3. Allow potting soil to dry out before watering your houseplants. Overwatering is a major cause of houseplant problems during the winter.

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.hgic.umd.edu.

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