Photo credit: Baltimore Sun/Jed Kirschbaum
Q: I still have a row of turnips and carrots in the vegetable garden. The tops are frozen but are the roots still okay 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 insulates the edible roots. Unprotected carrots and turnips tend to lose their eating quality when they shrivel and rot due to repeated cycles of freezing and thawing temperatures.
Q: I love using fall leaves to mulch my garden. My southern magnolia tree sheds a lot of leaves which I would like to grind up and use as mulch. However, people have told me that the leaves aren't good for the soil. What's your take on this? Should I add lime or something?
A: Magnolia leaves are tough and decompose slowly, so they make a long-lasting natural mulch under magnolia trees. We have no idea why they would be a problem. If you grind them up, you certainly can use them as mulch around other plants. Virtually all organic materials end up at a neutral pH of 7 after being composted, so acidity is not a problem and lime is not warranted to correct a low pH. In fact, lime is not recommended for compost piles because it interferes with the microbial activity.