The rains came down, so it's OK to fertilize

Garden Q&A

November 24, 2007|By Ellen Nibali and David Clement

You said not to fertilize because of the fall drought. Can I fertilize now?

Fall is the best time to fertilize cool-season grasses. Go ahead now that it has rained. It is still advisable to use a slow-release fertilizer with a nitrogen source that has at least a 30 percent to 40 percent water-insoluble nitrogen source, usually identified as WIN on the bag label.

Slow-release fertilizers are less likely to leach or run off the lawn and cause problems with water quality in the Chesapeake Bay. Be sure to not apply fertilizer where it can get onto impervious surfaces, such as sidewalks, driveways or roads. This becomes wasted product and can move easily into storm drains and sewers that often carry runoff directly into our waterways.

If fertilizer does get on an impervious surface, be sure to sweep or use a leaf blower to move it back onto the turf.

Every year, I grow paperwhite narcissus for the holidays and they flop over. What's the secret to keeping them shorter and upright?

Start the bulbs in a cool, dark room, preferably not above 48 degrees. Wait until growth reaches 3 inches and the flower buds are showing before moving the bulbs to a sunny, warmer location. Another approach would be to grow them in a tall-necked vase and let the vase support the thin flower stalks.

Checklist

If you haven't done so, now is the time to put down your last application of lawn fertilizer for this season. This will help with root growth before the ground freezes and with spring green-up.

Now is a good time to evaluate your soil and to add additional organic matter such as compost to enrich your vegetable garden for next season.

Ellen Nibali, horticulture consultant, works at Maryland Cooperative Extension's Home and Garden Information Center, and David Clement is the regional specialist. The center offers Maryland residents free gardening information. Call the center's "hotline" at 800-342-2507 or e-mail plant and pest questions through the Send a Question feature at hgic.umd.edu.

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