Weeds took over our flower beds last year. A friend said that we should pull what we can, put down four to five layers of newspapers (overlapping edges), and then cover them with mulch. Is this a procedure you would recommend? My husband and I are looking for the easiest way.
The newspaper-plus-mulch method is excellent. It's actually much more effective than mulch alone, because the newspapers don't allow any light to reach the weeds or weed seeds. It's a good low-maintenance method, plus it puts recycled paper to good use.
Avoid slick ad pages, and lay your mulch no more than 2 to 3 inches deep. For really tough perennial weeds, you can use cardboard underneath the mulch.
Last year, my passion flower vine grew luxuriantly but had no flowers. I fertilized and watered. Should I cultivate the roots or something this year?
Cut out the fertilizer. The nitrogen in fertilizer stimulates leaf growth at the expense of flowers and fruits in passion flower, as it does in many other plants. This native vine, with its wacky otherworldly purple and white blooms, is perfectly happy in an average soil.
With less nitrogen, you should also get the edible fruits, known as maypops.
Select crabapple varieties resistant to scab disease when planting new crabapple trees or replacing old ones.
Consider purchasing some floating row cover material to protect crops against insects and promote early growth. Floating row cover is made from a spun-boned polyester material, similar to gauze, and is available from garden-supply sources.
Ellen Nibali, a horticulture consultant, works at Maryland Cooperative Extension's Home and Garden Information Center, and Jon Traunfeld is the director of the Home and Garden Information Center. The center offers Maryland residents free gardening information. Call the center's help line at 800-342-2507 or e-mail plant and pest questions through the Send a Question feature at hgic.umd.edu.