Q. We just moved into a house with a neglected raspberry patch. What can I do now to get the plants ready for spring?
A. First, try to determine if they are June bearers or a fall-bearing cultivar. If last year's fruited canes are dead all the way down to the crown, you have a June-bearing cultivar. Simply remove all the dead fruited canes. In the spring, you'll need to thin and tie up the over-wintered canes. They will fruit and flower in June.
On the other hand, if you see dried-up fruits at the tips of canes that are not dead, you have a fall-bearing cultivar. Cut all canes to the ground. The new canes that emerge this spring will flower and fruit in late summer and fall.
Q. My compost pile is a mess. Things don't seem to be breaking down, and I can't turn the ingredients easily because of all the sticks and vines in it. Should I start over?
A. That would be a good idea. Pull your pile apart and remove all the woody materials that won't break down. (See if your county or city has a program in which organic waste is picked up.)
The microbes that break down the organic materials into compost stop working when the temperature drops below 50 degrees. In the spring, try adding some finished compost, aged manure, grass clippings or some high-nitrogen fertilizer to your pile to get it cooking. You'll need at least 1 cubic yard of materials for successful composting.
Keep the pile moist and try to maintain an even mixture of materials that are dry, brown and high in carbon and materials that are green, wet and high in nitrogen.
Q. Some of the young hollies and junipers on the north side of my property have leaves and needles that are turning brown and dropping off. They seemed to be fine going into the winter. Is this a response to freezing temperatures?
A. Yes, you are probably seeing winter-burn symptoms. These include branch dieback, cracked bark and brown needles and leaves. It occurs when evergreen trees and shrubs are unable to replace lost moisture because of cold, windy conditions and frozen soil water. Younger trees and shrubs on the windward side of your house may be especially vulnerable. In addition, the warm, dry weather this past autumn prevented many trees and shrubs of all ages from becoming fully hardened to winter conditions.
THIS WEEK'S CHECKLIST
1. Remove small bagworm bags from evergreen trees and shrubs, particularly spruces, and destroy. These bags contain hundreds of eggs that will hatch out in the spring if left.
2. Minimize traffic on frozen turf to avoid damaging the crowns of your grass plants.
3. Bird food stored in sheds or garages should be kept in sealed containers to prevent rodents and squirrels from getting at it.
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, or visit its Web site at www.agnr.umd.edu/users/hgic.
Pub Date: 01/24/99