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Articles by Dr. Francis Gouin

It still holds gifts for flowers and birds

If you planted pansies in your garden last fall, use branches of your discarded Christmas tree to provide the plants with some winter protection. Cutting the branches near the stem and spreading a single layer over the pansies will provide light shade, thus reducing chances of winter injury if we don’t get sufficient snow. Next spring, remove the branches just as the plants resume growing....

Why some oaks hold their leaves

Some oak trees retain their brown leaves all winter long, while others drop their leaves like all other trees. The reason is juvenility. It takes 25 to 30 years for an oak seedling to mature. Until it starts to produce acorns, the tree is in a juvenile state of growth and retains brown leaves all winter. As the oak approaches maturity, the ends of the branches near the top of the tree drop their leaves in the fall....

Your evergreens will get a good pruning while you clip and snap

The tradition of bringing greens indoors comes from Europe and Scandinavia. The winters were long, and bringing greens in the house gave hope that spring would soon be coming. It must have worked, as we still do it today.

If your evergreens are overgrown, now is the time to prune them back into shape and use the greens for decorations. Don’t be afraid to take the pruners and whack those evergreens.

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Not all Christmas trees are created equal

Not all evergreen trees are equally fire resistant. The Douglas fir is the most fire resistant tree, while the popular Fraser fir is the most combustible. Freshness has nothing to do with it. Douglas fir is a low-resin tree while Fraser fir is a high-resin tree.

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Put out bulbs and bring in geranium cuttings

 

Plant spring bulbs now before the ground freezes

To help your tulip bulbs produce large flowers for several years, dig the planting holes at least eight inches deep so that the top of the bulbs are no less that six inches below ground. Plant in well-drained soils amended with at least one-third compost by volume. 

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Composting returns all those nutrients to the garden

The soil in my first garden at Upakrik Farm in 1991 was mostly hard clods of silt. Because I have added liberal amounts of compost over the past 19 years, my soil is now loose, friable and highly productive. I attribute the change entirely to the use of compost.

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They’re Mother Nature’s mulch

In the fall, I hate to see black plastic bags full of leaves lining streets. Next spring, I’m likely to see empty bags of mulch, peat moss and fertilizer waiting to be collected by the solid waste municipal workers. Of all the 42 years that I have owned a home in Maryland, I have never discarded leaves. Nor have I ever purchased a bag of mulch.

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He’s the 2010 Francis R. Gouin Scholarship winner

Brian Murphy, winner of the 2010 Francis R. Gouin Scholarship Grant, is helping solve the problem of storing peaches. With advisor Dr. Chris Walsh, he is conducting research on improving the quality of peaches in storage.

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Let the stalks yellow before cutting

A Bay Weekly reader called asking when to cut back asparagus tops.

Not yet!

To maximize next year’s crop and to get early production of sprouts, delay cutting back the tops of asparagus plants until after they have turned completely yellow. You want all the nitrogen in the stems and foliage to migrate back to the roots in the ground.

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You’ll love persimmons — once you learn the to eat them

Now that I have returned to the Deale Farmers’ Market Thursdays from 3 to 6pm with persimmons, I get lots of questions: What do you do with persimmons? What do they taste like?

The persimmons I grow and sell are the Asian type, almost as large as tomatoes and with very few seeds, if any, depending on seasonal conditions. This year, persimmons have more seeds than usual.

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