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Mulch will deter weeds in vegetable garden

How should I mulch a vegetable garden? Do I need to mulch all of it?

Anywhere you don't want weeds will require mulch. Mulch helps retain moisture and moderate soil temperatures, but weed suppression is the No. 1 goal because weeds steal water, nutrients and sunlight from vegetables. Organic mulches of mowed leaves or straw with three to four layers of newspaper underneath make an impenetrable barrier to weeds while allowing rain to soak through. These will last the growing season and decompose over the winter, feeding the soil. You also can try plastic or landscape fabrics; however, they may require a mulch cover, and when the mulch decomposes, it supports weed growth on top of the fabric.

I stopped lawn treatments and am taking a stab at managing my lawn myself. What should I do for a shady lawn with fine fescue?

The following tips are true for fine and tall fescue — though fine fescue is less tolerant of abuse:

•Mow high and not too often. Never mow in a drought.

• Let grass clippings lie and decompose to nourish the lawn. Fertilize in fall.

•Identify weeds when they appear and hand-pull or use herbicides tailored to the weed. Send us a digital photo through our website's "Ask a Gardening Expert" page if you need help identifying a weed.

•Read the helpful fact sheets on our website, such as "General Guidelines for Lawn Maintenance in Maryland."

University of Maryland Extension's Home and Garden Information Center offers free gardening and pest information. Call 800-342-2507 or send a question to the website at

Plant of the Week

Blue false indigo

Baptisia australis

Blue false indigo was the 2010 Perennial of the Year, a well-deserved distinction for a native plant that provides interest for multiple seasons throughout the year. This deer-resistant beauty is drought-tolerant, adaptable to soil conditions and low-maintenance once established. It likes full sun or partial shade and well-drained soil, growing 3 to 4 feet tall and wide. Give it ample space, as it can have a shrublike presence and form the bones of a perennial garden. It blooms from May to June for about six weeks, producing indigo blue pealike flowers that project above the foliage on tapering spikes, followed by ornamental seedpods. Flowers and seedpods can be used in floral arrangements. The blue-green foliage remains attractive all season until frost, making this a perennial for your must-have list. — Debbie Ricigliano

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