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De-icer aids release of pond gas


Is it OK to let my garden pond freeze over the winter? I have fish in there.

Freezing is usually not a problem with large ponds unless there are a lot of decomposing leaves on the pond bottom. The decomposition process produces gases that are trapped below the ice and may kill some fish. Some fish kill is typical each winter, even in a natural pond. The smaller the pond the less likely it is that the fish will survive the winter.

To offer maximum protection for your fish, place an electric stock tank de-icer (with a guard) in your pond to keep an area clear of ice. The de-icer will permit harmful gases to escape and oxygen to enter the water.

I'm trying to order tomato seeds for my garden and am tired of trying to manage plants that grow 8 feet high. How can you tell by looking at the seed catalogs which varieties stay small?

"Indeterminate" plants, such as Better Boy, Big Boy and Brandywine, grow endlessly. They can be topped, however, when they get out-of-hand. "Determinate" plants, such as Marglobe, Celebrity and Floramerica, will stop growing in height when they reach 4 to 5 feet. These latter varieties tend to be bushier and have the potential to yield large harvests. Your seed catalogs will indicate whether a listed variety is indeterminate or determinate.

Something is chewing on my boxwood and witch-hazel plants at ground level. My guess is field mice. What can I do to prevent the problem?

Chances are the culprits are voles, also known as meadow mice. In the winter when food is scarce, voles commonly chew the bark off boxwoods, fruit trees and other landscape plants. Protect plant stems and the lower part of tree trunks with quarter-inch mesh hardware cloth. Wrap the material from 2 inches below soil level to 1 foot high.

Garden tips are provided by the Home and Garden Information Center of the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Maryland. For additional information on these questions or if you have questions of your own, call the center's hot line at (800) 342-2507.


Inspect conifers in your yard for signs of pine-needle scale -- a small, sucking pest. In wintertime they have a covering that is very small, white and oyster-shaped. Spray with a dormant oil when temperatures are expected to remain above freezing for a 24-hour period.

Start collecting juice, milk and yogurt containers for use in starting vegetable and flower seeds.

Order fruit trees now for early-spring delivery.

Pub Date: 2/16/97

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