Excessive chlorine bothers plants

Backyard Q&A

smaller trees are more cost-effective

February 20, 2005|By Jon Traunfeld and Ellen Nibali | Jon Traunfeld and Ellen Nibali,Special to the Sun

I volunteer at a greenhouse for seniors. The manager sets out jugs of water for 24 to 48 hours to dissipate the chlorine. My notes from my Master Gardening class say that chlorine is a trace element for plants. Your comments, please.

Chlorine is, indeed, a micronutrient required for plant growth, but necessary only in minute quantities. Because chlorine can kill bacteria, in excessive amounts it could have a negative impact on the good soil bacteria that benefit plants. Excessive chlorine can also directly injure plant roots. It is not necessary to allow chlorine to evaporate from tap water, unless you have heavily chlorinated water and are raising fish in a pond, producing compost tea, or tending to sensitive seedling plants (such as in a greenhouse).

I'm looking for trees in 5-7 gallon pots. I want to plant 18-24 trees along my driveway, but I can't find any in that size that I can afford. Can you help?

When planting a considerable number of trees, cost really adds up. Planting smaller trees can be more cost-effective, because smaller trees acclimate themselves to site conditions faster than larger trees. They catch up to and even surpass large size trees in a fairly short period. For example, after five or six years a healthy young tree planted with a trunk of 2 inches or less will be bigger than a tree planted with a 6-7-inch trunk.

I am interested in planting grapevines. What kind are best? I would like to plant white grapes, but I don't know what varieties. Any advice would be appreciated.

Seedless grapes are very popular, but seeded grapes may have more flavor and produce a larger grape for you. Himrod and Seedless Thompson are seedless white cultivars grown successfully in Maryland. Niagara is a good seeded white. For red and purple grapes, see our online publication, Getting Started with Small Fruits, which includes planting guidance, plus sources to purchase vines.

Take the opportunity this winter to research grape growing. Select a site with plenty of sunlight, and decide how you want to support the vines. Order vines for April delivery. This spring as soon as soil is workable, eliminate weeds and incorporate a 4-inch layer of compost into the planting area. Black rot is a serious fungal disease of grapes in Maryland that you will probably encounter, especially during wet, humid seasons. Spraying a labeled fungicide several times early in the season is the best way to control this disease.

Checklist

1. Now is a good time to remove tree branches broken by winter weather, and to prune out dead or damaged branches from trees and shrubs.

2. Remove bagworm bags from trees and shrubs, particularly spruces. The bags contain hundreds of eggs that will hatch in the spring. Discard or destroy the bags. Don't just leave them on the ground.

3. Bulbs that pop up during warm days may be nipped by subsequent cold snaps. This will not diminish your spring bulb display.

Jon Traunfeld, regional specialist, and Ellen Nibali, horticulture consultant, work at the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension's Home and Garden Information Center. The center offers Maryland residents free gardening information and answers to plant and pest questions. Call its hot line at 800-342-2507 (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-1 p.m.) or e-mail questions to www.hgic.umd.edu. (You can also download or order publications and diagnose plant problems online.)

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