Before we answer today's questions, we'd like to introduce ourselves. We are the horticultural consultants of the Home and Garden Information Center, state employees whose job it is to answer all of your questions about plants in the house and garden.
The center, in Howard County, was created six years ago to meet homeowner needs that historically had been met by each county's cooperative extension agent. (Yes, extension agents still exist, but they don't deal with homeowners anymore.) We are a toll-free phone service operated by the University of Maryland's Cooperative Extension Service. We are at your service -- on eight phone lines -- from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday. We serve the entire state of Maryland.
The office, led by four regional specialists, also offers a large menu of self-help tapes. The tapes, designed to help callers diagnose their own gardening problems, are accessible 24 hours a day. (The number to reach a human or a tape is given at the end of this column.)
Other Information Center services include a plant clinic, where we will diagnose problems on samples you mail to us. We ask for a sample in cases where we can't diagnose a problem over the phone. We'll also mail you a list of reasonably priced publications on horticulture and an extensive list of free fact sheets.
And now, on to today's questions.
My growing zucchini rotted overnight, and the problem seems to be spreading. Is there anything I can do?
Young squash fruits may become covered with a gray, fuzzy fungal growth that we call wet rot. The growth, which resembles a pincushion, is promoted by warm, wet weather. Pick off affected fruits when you see the rot and dispose of them.
Prevent the rot by removing spent blossoms as often as possible. Also, take off selected squash leaves to promote free air circulation and to allow sunlight into the crown of the plant.
My water garden has been a welcome addition to my landscape. I am considering installing a fountain for added interest. Can you give me some tips?
Gentle movement in a water garden adds pleasing sounds and discourages mosquitoes from laying eggs in the water. However, water lilies cannot tolerate much turbulence and will grow away from excessive movement. Place your fountain to one side of your pond.
For additional information on the above or other gardening questions, call the Home and Garden Information Center's toll-free hot line at (800) 342-2507.
Monitor your tomato plants for hornworms -- large, sluggish, green striped caterpillars with a pronounced red or black horn at the tail. Pick them off by hand and drop into a can of soapy water.
Get your soil tested now if lawn renovation is on your list of fall projects. Do it yourself with a soil-testing kit, or hire a professional to do it for you.
Resist the urge to prune your spring-blooming shrubs now. The time to have done it was when the shrubs finished flowering. Now it's too hot. Pruning is a growth stimulater, and new growth in summer heat is stressful for plants.
Pub Date: 8/11/96