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Articles by Dr. Francis Gouin

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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Don’t welcome them!

If you thought the Japanese beetles (aka ladybugs) were bad last year, get ready for worse this fall, when invading stinkbugs join the Japanese beetles. This is the worst year I have ever witnessed for stinkbugs.

Stinkbugs are harmless to humans and pets, but they are a nuisance and difficult to control. They derive their name from the foul odor they release when you squeeze the abdomen. It reminds me of smelly dirty socks with a slightly sweet odor. 

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Following a few simple rules, you can grow a mighty oak from a tiny acorn

 

A master gardener recently asked me how to germinate acorns because she had repeated failures. To be successful, collect the acorns soon after they have fallen from the tree. Never collect acorns that have caps still attached because those acorns are most likely empty. Only solid, firm acorns that have fallen from the tree without caps should be collected. A healthy, well-developed acorn is one that has separated from its cap while still attached to the tree.

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There’s a big difference between household vinegar and horticultural vinegar

A few years ago, I wrote about using horticultural vinegar to kill weeds. At a recent Deale Farmers’ Market, a customer who bought peaches from me insisted that my recommendation to use vinegar does not kill weeds.

She even went to the trouble of boiling the vinegar, thinking she would be concentrating it. What she did not realize is that boiling vinegar dilutes the acetic acid, which is why vinegar gives off a strong odor when heated.

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