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Garden Q&A: Growing garlic

I'm growing garlic for the first time. I read about it in the Grow It Eat It section of the HGIC website, but how do I decide whether to grow hard or soft neck garlic? Are there garlic cultivars recommended by University of Maryland Extension?

This is a good time to buy garlic for next year's harvest, before many sources sell out. You can plant up to early November. Here are some pros and cons of hard and soft neck garlic: Hard neck garlic is larger but with fewer cloves than soft neck garlic. Hard neck has better flavor but does not store as well as soft neck garlic. Whatever you plant, certified disease-free cloves are essential. We have a nice link to our recommended varieties of each vegetable crop on the HGIC website, but for garlic all named varieties are fine.

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We have five sugar maples in our cul-de-sac. For years their leaves have turned color prematurely. Their tops are thin with some dead wood. They were planted by the builder 12 years ago. Mine gets watered daily by drip irrigation so the problem isn't lack of water. I also fertilized yearly and mine looks as bad as the others. Is there a way to help them recover?

Although sugar maples are native to Maryland, they grow naturally in the more western parts and cooler sites. It is likely that the symptoms you see are the result of accumulated stress over time. Heat, drought, soil compaction, air pollution are all stress factors. When trees are under environmental stress, they can become more susceptible to disease and insect problems. Botryosphaeria is a common fungal disease. You may not see visible symptoms for some time until a tipping point is reached, then you see overall decline. When you think about replacement trees, we highly recommend diversification. Choose an assortment of different tree species. If any one declines, you are less likely to lose them all.

University of Maryland Extension's Home and Garden Information Center offers free gardening and pest information at extension.umd.edu/hgic. Click "Ask Maryland's Gardening Experts" to send questions and photos.

Joe Pye Weed 'Gateway'
Joe Pye Weed 'Gateway' (Ellen Nibali / HANDOUT)

Digging Deeper

Joe Pye Weed 'Gateway'

Joe Pye weed boasts many qualities gardeners love: long bloom period, substantial blooms, butterfly magnet, native. What's not to like? At 5-6 feet, it's hard to believe 'Gateway' is the dwarf version of a majestic native which can reach a whopping 10-12 feet. Recently, Joe Pye got a new botanical name, Eutrochium purpureum. From July to early fall, this perennial carries huge flower heads like rosey lavender clouds attracting butterflies. Joe Pye weeds is not fussy or weedy. Plant in as much sun as possible to encourage strong stems. Soil can be clay to loam with moderate moisture. Once established in 2-3 years, they tolerate some drought. Plants hold their structure well for a winter garden. Birds enjoy the seeds. Foliage is disease resistant. Young plants may need deer repellent spray until they grow high and tough.

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