Q. I have a large ash tree with some lower limbs that dropped leaves last summer and aren't putting out new leaves this year. Does this mean the branches are dead or might they stay dormant for another year and put on new leaves next year?
A. The branches are dead and should be removed. Determine the viability of a branch by peeling back the bark with a sharp knife. Live branches are green under the bark. Dead branches are brown.
Q. Please settle a dispute my neighbor and I are having. I grow the Celebrity variety, which is listed as a determinate type of tomato. My neighbor insists that they cannot be determinate because they bear fruit until the first frost.
A.You are correct. Determinate varieties are self-topping, which means the main stem stops growing mid-season but other shoots and leaves continue to grow. The main shoot stops growing at a maximum height of only 4 to 4 1/2 feet. Determinate varieties will produce fruit, however, throughout the season if properly cared for.
Q. I made the mistake of planting a large number of perennials two years ago in a bed that had poor soil, heavy in clay. I've fertilized and watered but the plants aren't growing as they should. Is there anything I can do short of ripping the plants out and starting over?
A. First take a soil test to determine the pH and nutrient levels. You may need to start over if the soil is poorly drained and the plant roots are drowning. If drainage is not a big problem, you can try broadcasting a two-inch layer of screened, finished compost (Leafgro, for example) over the entire bed. Gently work the compost in with a garden fork if you can avoid damaging roots. Otherwise, allow the compost to slowly work its way down into the soil profile where it will improve soil structure and encourage better root growth. Do this in the spring and fall for a couple of years and you should notice marked improvement.
THIS WEEK'S CHECKLIST
1. Transfer into larger pots those vegetable and flower transplants that are outgrowing their containers.
2. Bring your compost pile back to life by turning it and incorporating green materials, such as grass clippings or a soluble nitrogen source.
Garden tips are provided by the Home and Garden Information Center of the Maryland Cooperative Extension. 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.