Don't be too quick to cut down forest

GARDEN Q&A

Garden Q&A

March 04, 2006|By JON TRAUNFELD AND ELLEN NIBALI | JON TRAUNFELD AND ELLEN NIBALI,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

I want to clear the undergrowth in the forest around my new house but protect the trees. Should I cut everything down or spray it?

Whoa. With all the deer pressure in Maryland, you may be fortunate your forest has an understory at all. Many have been denuded by deer browsing (to the peril of other wildlife dependent on those plants).

We recommend you observe your forest through four seasons in order to identify good plants you want to keep. Many native plants are valuable ornamentals, such as spice bush or viburnums. On the other hand, if your woods has been taken over by non-native invasive plants, clear away! There are many ways to cut, spray or smother them and preserve your forest. See our online publication Invasive Plant Control in Maryland or call us for further help.

I am planning to plant a strawberry patch. Is it better to plant one variety or more? How do I space 100 plants?

We assume you are planting "June-bearing" cultivars. This is the type most commonly grown in Maryland. Strawberries are usually sold in bundles of 25. Because you are purchasing 100 plants, select an early, a midseason and a late cultivar.

A list of good cultivars and their sources is contained in our publication HG 68, Getting Started With Small Fruits. It's available online or by calling us.

Space plants 1 foot apart in single or double rows. Remove flower buds and flowers the first year so plants can direct their energy into root establishment. Most strawberry beds produce for three to five years, and production can be extended through renovation. For cultural information, call us for Fact Sheet 471: Growing Matted Row Strawberries in MD.

Checklist

Clean out nest boxes for song birds or install new ones.

Hold bareroot shrubs, trees and fruit plants in a cool, well-ventilated area until they can be transplanted. Alternatively, heel them in outside by covering the root systems with moist soil.

Jon Traunfeld, regional specialist, and Ellen Nibali, horticulture consultant, work at Maryland Cooperative Extension's Home and Garden Information Center, which offers Maryland residents free gardening information. Call 800-342-2507 (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-1 p.m.) or e-mail plant and pest questions through the Send a Question feature at hgic.umd.edu.

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