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Lantana is a perennial — in the tropics — not so much in Maryland

For The Baltimore Sun

This was my lantana last summer — now it’s black. I was told it was a perennial! The deer didn’t touch it. Yay! It bloomed like crazy into fall. Should I have protected it somehow?

Lantana is perennial — in the tropics. This heat-loving shrub from Zone 8 or warmer will be wiped out by a killing frost. In mild years, if it’s in a warm pocket, you may be able to get away with protecting the roots with mulch.

Usually in Maryland it is treated as an annual and discarded in late fall. It’s possible to overwinter it indoors in a pot in bright sunlight, or dig it up, allowing the soil to dry a few days, and store in a closed plastic bag in a cool, dark place. At any rate, its chemical makeup keeps deer away beautifully.

I plan to build four raised beds for vegetable gardens in the spring. I need to purchase garden soil to fill these beds. What kind of soil should I use in raised beds? What do I look for when shopping for garden soil?

Try to locate a landscaping business or garden nursery that sells a compost-topsoil mixture. If you purchase topsoil with no added compost, plan on working in at least two inches of compost.

Maryland does not have regulations that set standards for topsoil sales. Go to a reputable nursery or topsoil dealer. Ask questions about where the soil comes from, what kind of soiling testing is performed, what the pH is, and whether anything has been added to it. Examine the soil before purchasing it.

Topsoil should be dark and crumbly with an earthy smell. Do not purchase soil that is foul smelling, mottled gray, or chalky in texture. Examine the soil again before it is unloaded at your home.

University of Maryland Extension’s Home and Garden Information Center offers free gardening and pest information at Click “Ask Maryland’s Gardening Experts” to send questions and photos.

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