My row of Leyland cypresses suffered terrible winter burn this year. Will fertilizer help them recover faster? A couple of them look dead. Is that possible?
Some Leyland cypresses were killed by this severe winter or are still in the process of dying slowly. They are generally hardy to Zone 6 — meaning they can survive temperatures from minus-10 degrees to 0 degrees — but some cultivars are less hardy, and weaker plants will always be more susceptible to winter damage. The best way to help your remaining trees is to prevent further stress by watering during dry periods. Fertilizer can be a mixed blessing; it is not necessary on established trees and shrubs. In fact, overfertilizing increases susceptibility to insect pests and disease — even deer love the extra-tender foliage.
Is it allowed to put lime on vegetable gardens? There are so many new rules these days. How much should I put on?
You're probably referring to Maryland's lawn fertilizer law that took effect in October, which applies only to lawns and limits only nitrogen and phosphorus — pollutants of the Chesapeake Bay. This law does not apply to lime or vegetable gardens. Lime is applied to raise soil pH levels. The only way to know if your garden needs lime is by getting a soil test done every three to four years. The test results come back to you with lime and fertilizer recommendations for your garden.
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.
Looking for colorful replacements for impatiens? The polka-dot plant is a terrific option. Two years ago, impatiens were decimated by downy mildew, and the Home and Garden Information Center still advises not to plant them. But polka-dot plants perform beautifully as in-ground bedding plants in Maryland. Native to Madagascar, the polka-dot plant can also be grown as a houseplant. Its green leaves are vivid with splashes of pink, red or white, so showy that you won't notice the lack of flowers. Colors are brighter in part shade. In well-drained soil, it is an easy-to-grow, deer-resistant annual reaching 12 to 18 inches, with a 1-foot spread. Pinching them back encourages more of the colorful foliage.
—Christine Pfister McComas