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Planting woody shrubs is OK if ground isn't frozen

We are moving into a new home and purchased a number of plants for landscaping. Our landscaper recommended that we postpone putting any of the plants in the ground. He says that planting them now will not be beneficial because the ground will not provide the nutrients they will need. Instead, we still have them in their pots with mulch all around them. Is this a good solution, or would we be better off going ahead and planting them now?

Many plants will not survive if soil temperatures around their roots dip too far below freezing. In your case, if the ground is not frozen, it is still possible to install most woody plants. However, avoid digging in wet, clayish soil, which damages soil structure and results in bricklike soil.

One other technique is to simply sink the pots in the ground and mulch them heavily. Then unearth them in the spring and plant them permanently.

Something in my house is biting me. I've used foggers and had several pest control companies come, but not one can even find the little bugger. The itching is driving me crazy. What kind of bug is invisible? I'm thinking of replacing my carpeting next. This has been going on since October. Help!

No insects that bite humans are invisible to the naked eye. However, there is a long list of things that make people feel as though insects are biting them. This phenomenon is known as delusory parasitosis — and the sensation of being bitten can be anything but delusory.

Possible causes can include, but are not limited to, medication side effects, hard water, detergent, wool allergies and aging. In your situation, the time of onset hints at a probable cause.

When forced hot air heating systems kick on in the fall, they can dry skin to an uncomfortable degree. This can be aggravated by other causes, such as laundry detergents that don't normally induce itching. This, in turn, can be exacerbated by new chemicals such as foggers. Your solution may be as simple as adding a humidifier to your furnace and using milder soap to bathe and launder. Take a look at the online publication What's Biting Me? http://www.hgic.umd.edu/content/documents/BitingMe.pdf.

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

Plant of the week

Andromeda, lily-of-the-valley shrub

Pieris japonica

Even months before spring flowering, Andromeda is showy. Its rusty-gold buds develop the summer before spring bloom, contrasting all winter long with its deep green leaves. Some varieties feature pink or red buds. Andromeda is one of the earliest and longest-blooming spring shrubs, its cascades of white blossoms like lily-of-the-valley on steroids. New foliage can be reddish to gold-green. Height varies by variety and conditions from 4 to12 feet. Full to partial shade is critical to avoid lacebugs that suck color from leaves. Provide organic acid soil and sufficient water for this Asian native, and welcome lacebug-devouring spiders.

— Ellen Nibali

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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