What can I do outdoors when we have a surprise nice day? I'm itching to garden.
Pull up winter weeds. Some are already blooming! You can also prune, but wait for warmer weather in March for roses or fruit trees (especially peach and plum). As you wait to prune, this is a great time to get a clean look at branch structure and assess which limbs need to be removed because of rubbing branches or disease. For more pruning direction, check out the ornamental fact sheets on the University of Maryland Extension's Home and Garden Information Center website (under the Information Library publications). Also check for bagworm cocoons on evergreens, such as arborvitae or Leyland cypress. Pull and trash or drown in soapy water. Don't leave "bags" on the ground — they can harbor hundreds of bagworm eggs. Examine woody plants for the "black Styrofoam" egg cases of tent caterpillars or the fuzzy, yellow-white egg cases of gypsy moths. It's also a good chance to refresh deer repellents to stretch coverage through to spring. Or you can use the time to just get inspired and make plans for the spring.
My lucky bamboo plant has a yellow discoloration on its stalk. From previous experience, I know it will rot soon. How can I prevent this?
Usually maintained in water with no soil, lucky bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana) is more closely related to lilies than bamboo. Try to improve cultural conditions. Mineral additives in the water are often a culprit. Avoid water with fluoride, water-softening salts and chlorine. You can let chlorine evaporate from water overnight before using. Change the water every 15 to 30 days. Avoid temperature extremes or sudden changes, such as opening doors. Lucky bamboo prefers bright filtered light. Once spots appear on the stalk, it will likely die, though you can cut off sprouts and root them in new water.
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 extension.umd.edu/hgic.
Plant of the Week
This native pachysandra earns more fans as Marylanders add native plants to their landscapes. Its serrated leaves of a slightly bluish-green grow atop erect 6- to 10-inch stems. As foliage matures, it develops a pleasing, two-tone mottled effect. Clumps of white bottlebrush flower heads appear in spring. As a ground cover, Allegheny pachysandra spreads at a sedate pace, thick and disease-free. Allegheny pachysandra won't overrun boundaries the way Japanese pachysandra can. Plant this low-maintenance plant in shade with moist, organic soil, though it can tolerate some summer drought.
—Ellen NibaliCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun