Garden Q&a

GARDEN Q&A

March 12, 2009|By ELLEN NIBALI AND JON TRAUNFELD

Can I transplant my dogwood while it is blooming? I planted it too close to the house two years ago, but it is flourishing.

Dogwoods are forest understory trees, so choose a new location that is at least part shade. Spring is the time to transplant your dogwood, but wait until the soil is workable, i.e. dry enough that a ball of soil squeezed in your hand will crumble when you bounce it. Working with soggy soil that contains a high percentage of clay could turn it into cement.

When you transplant your dogwood, prepare the transplant hole ahead of time. Dig it wider than the root ball but no deeper. Retain as much of the roots as you can. Water it well after planting and keep watering during dry spells for two years.

We had soil tests done by a laboratory not on your list. The results told us the pH, but not what to do about it, if anything. Also they said the phosphorus and potassium were excessive.

Call us. We can tell you if the pH is high or low for each of your growing areas and how to adjust it. The pH is critical. If soil is too acidic or too basic, soil nutrients may not be available to plants, even though the nutrients are present in sufficient amounts.

Where fertilizer has been applied routinely, excessive levels of phosphorus and potassium are common. Both nutrients are fairly stable in the soil and tend to build up. They will not hurt your plants, but do not apply more. Phosphorus is very damaging to the environment because it can be carried by runoff into waterways. It is one of the main killers of the Chesapeake Bay. Buy fertilizer that does not contain phosphorus or potassium, or avoid synthetic fertilizers for a few years.

CHECKLIST:

* Pull weeds such as hairy bittercress and Indian strawberry. Because they are already green in a still-brown landscape, they are easy to spot.

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 800-342-2507 or go to hgic.umd.edu

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Susan Reimer has the day off. Her gardening column does not appear today.

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