Organic amendments for soil

BACKYARD Q&A

Backyard Q&A

April 10, 2005|By Jon Traunfeld and Ellen Nibali | Jon Traunfeld and Ellen Nibali,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Where in northern Baltimore County can I purchase bags of humus, compost and mushroom soil?

You should be able to find most of these products at do-it-yourself or hardware stores and garden centers. Also, check the Yellow Pages. Among composted products, you'll find composted steer manure, Leaf-Gro and Compro. Other Maryland products include Chesapeake Blue and Chesapeake Green. These products are all good organic soil amendments that improve soil structure and provide plant nutrients. Avoid buying torn bags or ones with very wet or smelly contents.

There are a number of suppliers of spent mushroom compost in the Kennett Square, Pa., area. This Web site lists some of them: www.americanmushroom.org/spent.htm. The mushroom compost may be high in soluble salts, so it's advisable to allow rainfall to leach out the salts before spreading it in your garden.

The peaches on my 5-year-old Hale Haven peach tree do not fully develop and are hard and small. It gets full sun and ample water. Should I have a second tree?

Hale Haven is one of the better peach varieties for homeowners. A second tree is not necessary for pollination. It should be bearing nicely by this point.

Some possible causes for small fruit are drought, low fertility, and failure to thin. Because drought is doubtful, check fertility with a soil test. Most likely, too many fruits on the tree caused the problem. Fruit should be thinned as they are forming to 6 to 8 inches apart, especially on early-bearing varieties. If the tree is growing in thick turf, this can stunt tree growth also.

Cut open and check those fruits that don't size up for signs of insects. Plum curculio and Oriental fruit moth are two common pests in Maryland.

Read our online publication, HG77, IPM Series: Stone Fruits.

Checklist

1. Divide and replant overgrown perennials. Discard the weak center portion of plant crowns.

Harden-off broccoli, cauliflower and other cool-season vegetable transplants by gradually exposing the plants, over a 5-7 day period, to sunlight and cool temperatures before planting them.

2. Allow the foliage to die back naturally on spring flowering bulbs. Cutting back green foliage will stunt the plants.

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 the center's "hotline" 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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