Plant of the week

Parsley - Petroselinum crispum (Ellen Nibali Photo, Baltimore Sun / May 15, 2010)

My dogwood had leaf spots last summer. Now my neighbors say it's dead and I should cut it down. Should I?

Your neighbors may think it had Discula anthracnose, a fungal disease that slowly killed many dogwoods — particularly stressed ones — in full sun and poor soil. However, because of the genetic diversity of the dogwood, this disease is no longer the rampant threat it once was. Resistant dogwoods survived. Maryland weather fluctuates yearly, and wet conditions last year led to outbreaks of other fungal leaf spot diseases. But they are not lethal. Monitor your dogwood, prune any dead branches and water during extended droughts. See our dogwood fact sheet at the University of Maryland Extension's Home and Garden Information center website for more.

Oaks and hickories die in our woods. More fell this winter, and no new ones are replacing them. What can we do to keep our woods going?

In a woods with close tree competition, up to a third of the trees can die every 10 years. Wider spacing benefits those that survive. But ultimately, new seedlings must grow to replace lost trees, and an acorn, for instance, only has a 1-in-10,000 chance of surviving to maturity. Add the overpopulation of deer, which scour the forest understory of seedlings, and woodland succession becomes a big problem. Fencing scattered blocks of woods or individual tree seedlings may be the only way to ensure forest survival.

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 its website at extension.umd.edu/hgic.

Plant of the week

Parsley

Petroselinum crispum

Can you imagine an expensive entree without its sprig of parsley? A substitute for parsleyed potatoes? Undoubtedly, parsley is a necessary culinary herb, but can you grow your own? You bet. Parsley is a biennial. After its first winter, it flowers and dies. Since you just want the leaves for flavoring and garnish, grow it like an annual. Parsley must be started from seed. Because it is slow to germinate, start seeds indoors, and when seedlings attain five or six leaves, transplant outdoors. This should happen around Mother's Day; to time this right, plant seeds indoors under strong lights in mid- to late-March. The curly leaf type is more decorative, while the flat-leaf type is preferred for flavoring. Caterpillars that eat your parsley will become black swallowtail butterflies. Plant extra for them!

— Lewis Shell