Q. We had a very difficult time with crabgrass in our yard last year, and we are concerned that it will come back again this year. Is crabgrass a perennial plant?
A. No, crabgrass is actually an annual plant, but it is a prolific seeder and tends to come back year after year once it is established. This is why many people apply crabgrass preventer in early spring.
Crabgrass preventer is a pre-emergent herbicide that kills the seeds as they germinate. If you do not wish to use an herbicide, you will need to keep the crabgrass pulled before it goes to seed next summer. Otherwise, you will have the same problem next year.
Q. We would like to plant a deep-pink flowering crab apple tree in our yard this spring, but we have heard that the best varieties are white-flowering. Is this true?
A. There are now hundreds of varieties and cultivars of crab apple in cultivation whose flowers vary in color from white to deep red-purple. Among these, I am certain that you can find a deep-pink variety that will work well in your yard; it is true, however, that many of the most highly regarded crab apple varieties are white-flowering.
Q. I have ordered some bare-root plants for my yard, but they will arrive several weeks before I am able to plant them. How can I store them?
A. When storing bare-root plants, the most important thing is to keep the roots from drying out. You can do this by heeling them in the ground or by misting them and covering them with a loose tarp. To heel them in, you should start by digging a trench that is deep enough to hold the roots. The plants should be laid on their sides with the roots in the trench and the tops resting outside the trench just above ground level. Then cover the roots with the excavated soil, and water them. If you are using a tarp, the plants should be placed in a protected spot, such as a shed or a garage. I would remove the tarp every day or two to mist the roots and then recover the plants.
THIS WEEK'S CHECKLIST
1. If you started feeding wild birds this fall, it is important to offer them a continuous food supply through the winter. They're depending on you.
2. Add only small quantities of soil to your compost pile. Excessive amounts of soil can prevent the pile from heating properly and will delay decomposition.
3. Use live traps to capture and remove mice and chipmunks in the home.
Dennis Bishop is an urban horticulture educator for the Baltimore office of the Maryland Cooperative Extension Services. If you have a gardening or pest problem, you can call the Home and Garden Information Center hot line (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 1-p.m.) at 800-342-2507. You can also e-mail questions, order publications and diagnose plant problems by visiting the Web site, www.agnr.umd.edu / users / hgic.