We want to have our first vegetable garden next year. Can we do anything to get started now?
Take these steps now to get a jump on spring:
* Select a site for the garden in full sun where water does not stand. It should be as close to your home and water supply as possible.
* Kill perennial weeds.
* Take a soil test.
* Dig or rototill soil and incorporate organic matter, plus lime according to the soil test.
* Autumn leaves (mulched is best) can be piled on top to be worked in next spring. Holes dug here and there can be filled with kitchen scraps over the winter, decomposing in place and enriching the soil.
* Study seed catalogs and read about vegetable gardening over the long winter evenings.
How do I get my roses ready for winter? I usually prune back now. The leaves were chewed by pests. Any suggestions?
Prune your roses in early spring just before growth begins. At that time, you can clearly see any winter injury to branch tips and remove that along with the usual pruning. When you prune in the fall, you risk losing more of your rose than you bargained if we have a hard winter and the tips die back.
The chewed leaves can be caused by a number of insects and the first step is to identify what is actually eating your roses. If you don't see anything eating them, it may have been rose slugs. (Google "rose slugs" in our Web site's Plant Diagnostic section.) These caterpillars are the same color as leaves, so they are very hard to see. Call us next year when you first begin to see insect damage and we can help you pinpoint the culprit.
Once the roses are dormant for the winter, you can pile mulch over the base of the plant to protect it. As soon as it warms up in spring, pull back the mulch. Our publication, A Rose for Every Garden, is also available online.
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 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.
* Cut down any flower foliage infected with powdery mildew or other fungal diseases. Dispose off-site.
* Enjoy viewing mushrooms. They disappear quickly and there is no fungicide labeled for them.
* Check windows for broken glazing and cracks, and repair and replace if necessary.
* Don't clean windows on a hot day; the water will dry on the glass too quickly and leave streaks.
Maryland Cooperative Extension Service and Sun news services