GARDEN Q & A

The Baltimore Sun

What kind of light bulb is best for starting seedlings indoors?

We recommend using a fluorescent, shop light-type unit containing two standard 40-watt fluorescent tubes or one cool white and one warm white tube. This provides adequate light for growing transplants and is more economical than special lighting. Suspend the unit so the lights are 1 to 2 inches above the tops of the seedling plants and raise the lights as the plants grow. Adding some natural light also improves results. For more detail, call us or go online to read our publications on starting and transplanting vegetable seedlings.

My yard is depressing! How can I make winter more endurable?

"Winter gardens" can add color, variety and action to any dreary day. This year, shop for plants that have year-round green or colored foliage such as evergreen magnolia or nandina or yellow junipers. Shiny-leaved hollies are especially perky. Berries in red, yellows and oranges are good additions; plus, berries attract birds whose antics make your yard a constant show. Bark of shrubs or trees come in surprising colors and patterns from red, yellows and greens to white and earth tones. Think about adding hardscape, those permanent pathways, statuary and walls, or other attractive features that also can be transformed by snow or ice. Seed pods and dried flower heads come in myriad shapes such as those of Black-eyed Susans that punctuate the garden with black dots. For more ideas, scan through the vivid color photos of Plants of the Week for winter months on our Web site home page under "Hot Topics."

CHECKLIST:

* Only bring in enough firewood to burn at one time. Don't store it inside your home.

* Be alert for ticks when the temperature is above 50 degrees, and they become active.

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 800-342-2507 or e-mail plant and pest questions at hgic.umd.edu.

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