I planted a small serviceberry tree in my yard this spring, but it never really took off. The leaves are pale and yellowing, and they dropped early. Do you know what would cause this?
There are several species of serviceberry that are available in the nursery trade. The two most common species are downy serviceberry, Amelan-chier arborea, and shadblow serviceberry, Amelanchier canadensis.
Both plants are native to the eastern U.S., and, unfortunately, both are subject to a number of disease and insect pests. It sounds like your plant has disease problems. These diseases are worst during wet springs and summers, so it may be particularly bad this year.
If your tree is small and you are able to replace it, I would recommend planting one of the disease-resistant cultivars of serviceberry. Should you decide to keep the plant, you will need to make an effort to keep it healthy. Keep the plant mulched and be sure to water the young plant during dry spells. Also, be sure to remove and destroy diseased leaves from the plant. This should reduce the level of disease.
I am planting grass seed for the first time. After the seed is spread, should I cover it with soil, or is it best to leave the seed lying on top of the ground?
The grass seed will germinate best if it is in solid contact with the soil. To get good soil contact, the seed should be lightly covered with soil. If the seed is left on top of the ground, it will not have good soil contact. However, if it is buried too deeply, it may germinate but never emerge from the soil.
I would suggest that you lightly till or turn over the entire area to be planted. The soil should be loosened at least 1 to 2 inches in depth. After that, spread the seed at the recommended rate and gently rake it in with the backside of a rake. This will lightly cover most of the seed with soil. The last key is water. The newly planted seed must be watered every day to get good germination.
1. Don't throw tomato plants infected by serious diseases like fusarium wilt into your compost pile.
2. Some insects seek warm places to overwinter. Prevent insects from moving into your home by tightening up screens and by caulking and placing weather stripping around thresholds and vents.
3. Leave the heads of sunflower plants through the fall and winter as food for birds.
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.