It's hard to blame tree deaths on single cause

garden q&a

October 18, 2008|By Ellen Nibali and Jon Traunfeld | Ellen Nibali and Jon Traunfeld,Special to The Baltimore Sun

We lost two old oaks this year and my neighbors lost a maple and a pine. I've noticed some big trees in the woods dying, too. I'm worried about tree survival. Is this a blight?

There is usually no single cause of tree deaths. Old age always claims trees. Recent droughts and periodic bouts with gypsy moths and other severe defoliators or boring insects are big culprits.

Normally, the forest regenerates itself, but abnormally high deer populations eat most tree seedlings. This is creating a difficult situation for our forests.

My caladiums are so gorgeous I want to bring them indoors and enjoy them through the winter. Will that work?

Caladiums, including giant elephant ears, can overwinter indoors, but this tropical family still needs a rest period and will go dormant. You can leave your caladiums in a pot and water them lightly from early fall until early spring. Then place them in bright, not direct sunlight, and increase watering. Alternatively, you can remove the bulbs from the soil, as you would for elephant ears, when foliage fades. (Dig up elephant ears after light frost. ) Air-dry tubers, place in well-ventilated containers and pack with peat moss, vermiculite or sawdust. This material helps to hold just enough moisture to keep the bulbs from shriveling. Store where temperatures do not drop below 40. Check monthly. Discard rotten tubers and sprinkle shriveled tubers with a little water to prevent them from drying out completely.

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.

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