To help chrysanthemums survive, you must take care of their roots

garden q&a

October 11, 2008|By Ellen Nibali and Jon Traunfeld | Ellen Nibali and Jon Traunfeld,Special to The Baltimore Sun

Why don't my chrysanthemums keep blooming through the whole fall season? Most years, I have to buy mums twice. Then they die! Aren't they supposed to be perennials?

Yes, chrysanthemums are perennials, but to survive the winter they need time for their root systems to get established. Plant early in the fall and keep them moist by supplementing rainfall through autumn. Protect tender roots with evergreen boughs or an airy mulch if you cut the mums down after frost kills the tops. Remove any mulch early in spring. Mums do not like sitting in damp.

As for the brief-bloom problem, you may have purchased mums that had already been blooming for some time. The flowers normally do not last for more than a few weeks. For the longest-lived blooms, buy plants with unopened buds. Mum varieties open in early fall, mid or late fall. For a long season of display, plant a selection of varieties with different bloom times.

Stink bugs are flying everywhere, sticking to my car. One landed on my nose and when I brushed it away it left something behind - I could smell it for half an hour! How do I keep them out of my house?

The marmorated stink bug first landed in Washington County and has spread quickly because, like all invasive species of the U.S., it has no predators or disease to keep its population under control. They wander into homes while seeking a place to overwinter, but do no harm to home or humans. (Though squishing them is smelly.) Tighten up your home by caulking and weatherstripping. There are no pesticides for indoor use. You can vacuum them up and dispose of the bag.

Ellen Nibali, a horticulture consultant, works at Maryland Cooperative Extension's Home and Garden Information Center, and Jon Traunfeld is the director of the Home and Garden Information Center. The center offers free gardening information. Call the center's help line at 800-342-2507 or e-mail plant and pest questions through the Send a Question feature at hgic.umd.edu.

checklist

* Keep grass seed consistently moist once it is watered. If allowed to dry out, the seed will die and never germinate.

* Watch rain patterns and figure out how to slow runoff or retain water for your own plants, while helping to keep storm water out of the Chesapeake Bay.

* Before buying a new mattress, test it out in the showroom, lying for at least five minutes each on your back, side and front.

* Try removing a battery-acid stain from a concrete garage floor by rubbing it with chlorine bleach.

Maryland Cooperative Extension Service and Sun news services

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