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By Ellen Nibali, For The Baltimore Sun | February 21, 2013
The soil test on my garden says the pH is 6.7. I need to find out what plants grow in that pH. Congratulations. Your soil pH is in the ideal range that most plants like — slightly acid. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14, with 7 as neutral. Numbers above 7 are alkaline, and numbers below 7 are acid. Each number increases exponentially to the 10th power. Thus, a 6 pH is 10 times more acidic than 7 pH; and 5 pH is 100 times more acidic than 7 pH. Soil pH determines the availability of nutrients to plant roots.
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By Ellen Nibali, For The Baltimore Sun | February 21, 2013
The soil test on my garden says the pH is 6.7. I need to find out what plants grow in that pH. Congratulations. Your soil pH is in the ideal range that most plants like — slightly acid. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14, with 7 as neutral. Numbers above 7 are alkaline, and numbers below 7 are acid. Each number increases exponentially to the 10th power. Thus, a 6 pH is 10 times more acidic than 7 pH; and 5 pH is 100 times more acidic than 7 pH. Soil pH determines the availability of nutrients to plant roots.
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NEWS
May 14, 2000
Q. Last year, I had terrible luck with my turnips. Most of them had black, rotten spots in the middle. I had my soil pH checked and it was 7.6. Is that the problem? My soil is nice and sandy and I had not noticed this problem in the past. A. You have two easily corrected problems. The soil pH should be around 6.5, so you'll need to incorporate 15 pounds of iron sulfate plus 10 pounds of garden sulfur per 1,000 square feet of area. The black spots are caused by a deficiency of boron, made worse by the high soil pH. Boron is often deficient on light, sandy soils.
FEATURES
By Ellen Nibali and Jon Traunfeld and Ellen Nibali and Jon Traunfeld,Special to the Sun | August 23, 2008
A bee swarm just moved into the walls of my house. I don't want to kill them because I know honeybees are threatened by disease and that mysterious colony collapse syndrome. What do I do? We need pollinators - but I can hear them buzzing through the wall! Please call us. You're right - those honeybees are valuable (though they are not native, and we have thousands of native insects and other creatures that pollinate). Here at the Home and Garden Information Center, we have lists of beekeepers who will be glad to lure the honeybees out of your house without doing harm to you or the bees.
NEWS
December 26, 1999
Q. There was a strange, tan-colored growth on a branch of our Christmas tree this year. A neighbor thought it was a winter home for katydids. We clipped the branch and are keeping the strange growth in a little terrarium to see what hatches out. A. You're describing a praying mantis egg mass. If they hatch out in your terrarium, they will eat one another and create quite a commotion. And they'll die if you release them outdoors in the open. It's best to place the cut branch in a protected area outdoors.
FEATURES
December 29, 1996
I still have a row of turnips and carrots in the vegetable garden. The tops are all frozen. Are the roots still OK to eat?You'll need to dig some of your remaining root crops to determine their eating quality. Root crops planted in late summer or early fall often can survive Maryland winters if covered with a deep blanket of straw or chopped leaves after the tops die back. A thick mulch helps to insulate the roots. Unprotected carrots and turnips tend to lose their taste, and then shrivel and rot because of repeated cycles of freezing and thawing.
NEWS
May 23, 1999
Q. We just arrived here from England and haven't seen any currants or gooseberries growing in our neighbors' gardens. Can we grow them in Maryland? A. Yes, all types of currants -- white, red and black -- and gooseberries can be grown. You might also want to try the jostaberry, a cross between the two. Be aware, however, that the jostaberry is much larger than either parent, measuring 4 feet to 5 feet high and 6 feet to 8 feet across. If you plant these berries, don't be alarmed if they defoliate by the end of summer because of hot, humid weather and disease.
NEWS
December 3, 2000
Q. I still have a row of turnips and carrots in the vegetable garden. The tops are all frozen but are the roots still OK to eat? A. You'll need to dig some of your remaining root crops to determine their eating quality. Root crops planted in late summer or early fall can often be overwintered in Maryland if covered with a deep blanket of straw or chopped leaves after the tops die back. A thick mulch helps to insulate the edible roots. Unprotected carrots and turnips tend to lose their eating quality and shrivel and rot due to repeated cycles of freezing and thawing temperatures.
FEATURES
March 2, 1997
I'm thinking about buying a soil pH meter I saw advertised in a seed catalog. How accurate are they? Are they worth the money?Typical soil pH testers have a set of probes that are inserted into the soil. They cost $20-$25 and may be accurate to within half a pH unit. For example, if your soil pH is 7.0, a meter may register a pH value between 6.5 and 7.5. The same is true of do-it-yourself soil tests that contain litmus paper or powders. With certain plants, such as azaleas, a reading that is off by half a pH unit can mean the difference between growing success and failure.
NEWS
September 17, 2000
Q. I like the idea of building my garden soil by planting a cover crop. But most of my veggies are still going strong. I don't want to pull them up to make room for plants I can't eat. What's an organic gardener to do? A. Here are a few ways around your dilemma: 1)Remove the mulch from around your plants and between your rows and sow a cover crop on the bare soil. The young cover crops won't interfere with your vegetable harvest. 2) Pull up any spent vegetable plants and sow cover crop seed in their place.
FEATURES
By Ellen Nibali and Jon Traunfeld | May 17, 2008
My longtime vegetable garden has been going downhill for the past two years. I don't see disease or insects. Is something wrong with the soil? Should I fertilize more? Check the soil pH with a soil test. When soil is too acid, it changes the chemistry of the soil so that even when nutrients are sufficient, plants cannot use them. Vegetables generally like a pH from about 6 to a neutral 7. Below that is the acid range. Keep in mind that pH numbers increase or decrease exponentially by 10. In other words, 6 pH is 10 times more acid than 7. A pH of 5 is 10 times more acid than 6, and thus 100 times more acid than 7. Because of acid rain and natural acidification of soil, it's important to check and correct the pH of your soil about every three to four years so the soil doesn't get too acid.
NEWS
By Dennis Bishop and Dennis Bishop,Special to the Sun | February 23, 2003
I planted azaleas two springs ago. The first year the leaves were dark green, but last year they started to turn yellow shortly after flowering. Would a soil pH problem cause this? Yes, that might be the case. Most azaleas like a soil pH between 4.5 and 6.0. When the pH is too high, they may suffer from iron chlorosis and turn pale yellow. If that is the problem, you should consider removing the azaleas and planting something else that tolerates a higher pH. Or, you could treat the soil with a soil acidifier, such as aluminum sulfate.
NEWS
By Dennis Bishop and Dennis Bishop,Special to the Sun | November 10, 2002
Portions of my fall collard greens grew much smaller than normal, and they are wilting. When I pulled them up, the roots were swollen and knotted. Do you know what would cause this? I suspect your greens have club root disease. Club root is a fungal disease that affects many plants in the crucifer family, which includes turnips, kale, cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, radishes, rutabaga and cauliflower. Because infected plants are unable to obtain adequate moisture and nutrients, they wilt and become stunted.
NEWS
By Dennis Bishop and Dennis Bishop,SPECIAL TO THE SUN | November 4, 2001
Q. We are planning to remove some lawn area and plant a bed of shrubs and perennials. How should we prepare the area for planting? A. In spring, the lawn area can be treated with a herbicide like Roundup and then tilled under after it has died in one to two weeks. Or, you can remove, or strip, the lawn. Whether you strip the lawn by hand or machine, you should take about 1 inch of soil and roots along with the top of the grass. I prefer to prepare beds in late fall; however, herbicides are less effective at this time and it is often necessary to strip the sod. After the lawn is killed or removed, the soil should be amended with organic matter and then tilled.
NEWS
March 18, 2001
Q. I'm getting ready to plant some shade trees and fruit trees in my back yard, but I just got back my soil test recommendation and the pH is very low -- 5.2. The guy at the garden center said if I spread lime now it will take too long for it to actually raise the pH. He told me to put the lime right in the planting holes. Will that burn the trees? A. You will create an excessively "sweet" soil and nutrient imbalances if you apply the recommended amount of lime directly to the planting holes.
NEWS
January 7, 2001
Q. Is it OK to burn our Christmas tree in the fireplace? It's a Douglas fir, and they don't pick up Christmas trees curbside where we live. A. Any real Christmas tree is fine to burn. You can also use your fir twigs and needles for kindling. However, freshly cut soft-wood species, like spruce, pine and fir, will produce a lot of creosote, which could build up inside your flue if you burned them all the time. If you decide not to burn it, drag your tree into a wooded area to create a habitat for birds and small animals.
FEATURES
October 4, 1998
Q.I tried hot peppers in containers this summer and they did great. Can I save some of the seed to plant next year? Will the plants continue to grow over the winter if I bring them indoors?A.By all means, save some seed as long as the varieties you grew were open-pollinated. Wear plastic gloves when opening the pods and removing the seeds. (Remember, they're hot.)You can bring your pepper plants indoors, but you will have to give them a full-sun window or grow lights for continued blooms and pods.
NEWS
By Dennis Bishop and Dennis Bishop,SPECIAL TO THE SUN | November 4, 2001
Q. We are planning to remove some lawn area and plant a bed of shrubs and perennials. How should we prepare the area for planting? A. In spring, the lawn area can be treated with a herbicide like Roundup and then tilled under after it has died in one to two weeks. Or, you can remove, or strip, the lawn. Whether you strip the lawn by hand or machine, you should take about 1 inch of soil and roots along with the top of the grass. I prefer to prepare beds in late fall; however, herbicides are less effective at this time and it is often necessary to strip the sod. After the lawn is killed or removed, the soil should be amended with organic matter and then tilled.
NEWS
December 3, 2000
Q. I still have a row of turnips and carrots in the vegetable garden. The tops are all frozen but are the roots still OK to eat? A. You'll need to dig some of your remaining root crops to determine their eating quality. Root crops planted in late summer or early fall can often be overwintered in Maryland if covered with a deep blanket of straw or chopped leaves after the tops die back. A thick mulch helps to insulate the edible roots. Unprotected carrots and turnips tend to lose their eating quality and shrivel and rot due to repeated cycles of freezing and thawing temperatures.
NEWS
September 17, 2000
Q. I like the idea of building my garden soil by planting a cover crop. But most of my veggies are still going strong. I don't want to pull them up to make room for plants I can't eat. What's an organic gardener to do? A. Here are a few ways around your dilemma: 1)Remove the mulch from around your plants and between your rows and sow a cover crop on the bare soil. The young cover crops won't interfere with your vegetable harvest. 2) Pull up any spent vegetable plants and sow cover crop seed in their place.
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