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Leo James knows better than most what’s swimming down there

In gauging the chances of a successful fishing season, I have learned to distrust the forecasting of state and conservation officials as fraught with politics and self-interest. Worse, my own guesses have proven wrong so often that I’ve learned to stop making them. There has been, however, one source I rely on year after year.
    I’ve come to think of this fellow with his thick mane of white hair as the Oracle of Mill Creek.
    Leo James has again and again captured the essence of the unfolding seasons more accurately than I thought possible. Living on the same Mill Creek waterfront property that his family has held over the last 100 years or so, this mostly retired waterman still rises at 3am this time of year to set nets for fresh bait. He fishes, tends to his marina and shares his knowledge of the Chesapeake with anyone who doesn’t irritate him. Luckily, I sometimes fit that qualification.
    “More rockfish than I’ve seen on the Bay in a lot of years,” was his first take this year. “The fish were so thick out there in February and March that they ran all of the alewife up into the creeks. Then more rock showed up this month, lots of big ones, too.”
    His prediction: “We’re going to have a good many fish for the trophy season this year, even better than last. And the regular season should be just as good.”
    Being on the waters of the Bay almost every day over the last 70 years has given James a prescience that eclipses the attempts of many highly educated scientists. The strenuous life he’s led has also left its mark on him. To say he’s fit is an understatement.
    The daily schedule as he moves about on the water and in his marina would put most of his age group (myself included) in the hospital.
    “But I can’t work into the night then be back on the water by 3am any more,” he confessed recently. “Guess my years are catching up with me.”
    In our conversation, he also reminisced to back in the day when 50- and 60-pound rockfish chasing fleeing alewife would slam into his bait nets.
    “They’d rock the whole boat. You almost couldn’t stand up some days. A rock tail two feet across would come up out of the water so it took your breath away. I remember one fish so big that it just tore through the whole net, never even slowed down. On one or two days, we had to quit setting. The fish just ran us right off the water.”
    Hyperbole? I’m not so sure. I’ve read and heard similar stories and caught glimpses of too many really big fish moving through Bay waters to discount any of the Oracle’s recollections.
    Part of the beauty and mystery of the Chesapeake is that you never really know what’s beneath. Of course, Leo James has a pretty good idea.

Just how different is now from then?

When you take time to count, thoughts start tickling your brain.
    That sequence — 22-23-24 — which I hadn’t noticed until I wrote it down, could start its own numerological train of thought.
    Here’s another number: 1,219. That’s how many editions of Bay Weekly we will have made in the 24 years since we published Vol. 1 No. 1 on Earth Day 23, April 22, 1993.
    What do all those issue amount to? Where did all those years go? How is now different from then?
    I was coming up with more questions than answers until I bumped into Victoria Coles’ research into changing Chesapeake times.
    We are in the midst of change, Coles told me from her at Horn Point Laboratory in Cambridge, part of the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science.
    Coles and a couple of other researchers, Ralph Hood and Kari St. Laurent, have been “thinking about what people and organisms actually feel: daily weather, 10 or 15 warm days and their cumulative stress on people and environment,” she said.
    They found plenty of answers. But they had to look further than a mere 24 years.
    “In shorter times like 25 or 50 years, you start to see natural climate variability that overshadows long trends,” Coles told me.
    Coles’ team went back 114 years, to the beginning of the 20th century.
    From that perspective, they documented patterns that may feel familiar.
    Summers really are hotter.
    We suffer through 30 more “tropical summer nights” each year now than our ancestors did 100 years ago. On tropical nights, temperatures stay above 68 degrees.
    Maryland is feeling the heat more than Virginia, whose increase was only 20 days, while ours was 40, Coles explained. Since Bay Weekly went into business, we’ve added 10 of those insufferable nights when, without air-conditioning, you never cool off. Your clothes stick to you, your skin feels clammy and you toss and turn.
    That’s only one way we feel the difference.
    “It impacts human health,” Coles said. “When nights are not cooling, impaired immune systems really struggle.”
    Implications extend beyond human health to energy use and crop yields.
    Meanwhile, cold is lessening.
    “Since 1917,” Coles said, “frost days per year have dropped by a full month.”
    “This longterm trend,” she noted, “could be quite different for any given 25-year period because of natural climate variability.” But it could also have given our last quarter-century a week or eight fewer frost days. How does that accord with your experience? Maybe you even kept records.
    Chesapeake Country has grown wetter as well as hotter. As a region, we get about 41⁄2 more inches of rain per year than fell a century ago. Again, Maryland got the lion’s share, a full six inches. Intensity is increasing, too, rising by 10 inches per year (and six in Maryland) in “heavy precipitation events,” Coles said.
    All these changes amount to a longer growing season, 17 days more in Maryland over the past century.
    With all this change comes — no big surprise “lots of variability.” Like this year, Coles noted, “when we saw magnolia blooms get frost killed.”
    Each of those changes has huge consequences that can make the future ever more different and, by our old habits, more difficult to manage. “Agriculturally,” she says — and in so many other ways — “it makes it hard to plan.”
    I’m planning Bay Weekly’s 1,220th issue for April 27, nonetheless.
    Coles and her colleagues hope we will do more.
    “Our point here,” she wrote, “was to talk more about what we’ve been seeing in a way that might convince people to take actions that would increase their own personal and community resilience.”
    That’s what Bay Weekly is about. Every week, I try to take that message home, just as you do.
    Learn more: https://tinyurl.com/changingchesapeake.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher
email editor@bayweekly.com, www.sandraolivettimartin.com

Bright colors and silly humor will entertain children but test adults' fortitude

The Smurfs are pretty bored. Seeking adventure are best friends Brainy (voiced by Danny Pudi: Powerless), Clumsy (Jack McBrayer: The Middle), Hefty (Joe Maganiello: Drunk Parents) and Smurfette (Demi Lovato: From Dusk Til Dawn: The Series). Papa Smurf (Mandy Patinkin: Homeland) tries to keep them from getting into too much trouble. It’s a simple life, until an accident shows the young Smurfs a world outside.
    While smurfboarding in the forbidden forest, Smurfette sees a figure that looks like her. The figure drops a hat that is identical to Smurfette’s, and for the first time ever, Smurfette wonders whether she and her blue brethren are really alone. Before she can investigate, Monty, the pet vulture of Gargamel (Rainn Wilson: Adventure Time), kidnaps Smurfette and flies her to the evil wizard’s lair.
    Gargamel has spent years trying to capture the Smurfs so he can turn their magic to his own use. When he learns there might be more Smurfs, he becomes obsessed with finding them. Fearing that Gargamel might find these new Smurfs before they do, Smurfette, Clumsy, Hefty and Brainy set off for the forbidden forest.
    Animation is a tricky genre no longer dismissible as children’s entertainment. Many studios are producing nuanced movies with complex characters, inventive stories and gorgeous visuals. Smurfs: The Lost Village is not one of them. Made solely for its young audience, it features whacky visuals, lots of physical humor and characters defined by their names. At my showing, younger viewers were enthralled with the funny voices, silly antics and pretty colors.
    However, if you’ve ever voted, ordered an alcoholic drink or driven, this film was not made for you.

Poor Animation • PG • 89 mins.

Mr. Burrito finds his forever home

You’re working late one night, taking out the last can of trash when a large moving shadow across the street catches your eye. After pushing down the initial urge to run back inside, you recognize not a big rat or a small dog but a rabbit. Still, something isn’t adding up. This rabbit is much too large to be a garden-variety cottontail. A rabbit this big, and with a floppy ear, is bred to be a pet.
    You approach with caution, careful not to spook it. But it is carelessly headed toward a major thoroughfare while snacking on roadside debris.
    I don’t know about you, but I felt every nurturing instinct in my body waken as I burst into the restaurant kitchen yelling, “I need a carrot!”
    What follows is a quick-paced chase with slapstick humor, heart-pounding music and quick getaways. Despite carrots, my close approach sends rabbit under the nearest car, with me following.
    Rabbit would have been roadkill without a sidekick who joined me in a pincer move. Rabbit was caught by his scruff against a chain-link fence.
    Packed neatly in a fast-food box with a carrot, rabbit came home with me — and my Siberian husky — for the night.
    Next morning calls to local animal rescues and posts on Facebook Lost and Found Pets of Anne Arundel County turned up no missing rabbits. Poor allergic me was recued — as well as the rabbit, who made the husky very curious — by a friend with a farm and a vacant hutch.
    She said this was only temporary.
    Her roommate thought otherwise.
    Mr. Burrito, as he has been named, has found his forever friend, Sarah. The pair enjoys watching late-night television snuggling on the couch.
    Not every story ends up as well as Mr. Burrito’s.
    More than 60 rabbits were surrendered last year, according to Robin Catlett of Anne Arundel County Animal Control.
    To help prevent homeless bunnies, research the care and monetary commitments a bunny will need for an average life of 12 years.
    Never give a pet as a gift. Instead offer to pay for any fees and go with the beneficiary to make your gift an experience. Follow this rule with especial firmness at Easter time.
    Browse local shelters and rescue groups before buying from a store.
    Never abandon a pet. House pets are not bred to survive in the wild. If you can no longer care for a pet, call a local shelter or rescue group to surrender it.
    If you do see a rabbit in the wild and prefer not to give chase, you can call animal control, and an officer will assist you: 410-222-8900.

Trouble’s brewing below the surface

Mother Nature mulches in the fall by dropping leaves from her trees and by laying the blades of grasses or the leaves of herbaceous perennials over the soil. She covers the ground only with the waste she produces.
    We, on the other hand, buy bags of ground bark, chipped wood scraps or colored wood waste from only God knows where, pile it over the soil and call it mulching. I see mulch piled so deep trees seem to emerge from volcanic cinder cones. Roots of shrubs gasp for air and die from suffocation. Dense mulch absorbs most of the rain before it can penetrate to the soil, and plants suffer in drought.
    The leaves that fall to the forest floor in autumn serve as a blanket of insulation, allowing the soil to remain warmer longer and roots able to absorb water longer. The longer roots absorb water, the more resistant they become to damage by freezing temperatures. The leaves will decompose during the growing season, allowing nutrients to return to the soil for roots to absorb.
    Ground bark sold as mulch, on the other hand, contains very few nutrients. Decomposing, the mulch leaves behind clay-like particles called colloids. As colloids accumulate from repeated applications of ground bark, a slime-like layer forms over the soil, reducing air movement. Roots need oxygen, and they generate carbon dioxide. A thick layer of mulch over a colloidal layer can cause a toxic accumulation of carbon dioxide.
    Hardwood bark decomposes faster than pine bark, creating a colloidal layer sooner. Double-shredded hardwood bark mulch decomposes within a year, leaving behind fine organic colloids.
    Repeated applications of hardwood bark and especially double-shredded hardwood bark also raise the pH of soil and accumulate manganese. Since manganese is not very soluble, it accumulates to toxic levels within seven to 10 repeated applications. When the manganese levels in the soil exceed the levels of iron, copper and zinc, roots are unable to absorb iron for photosynthesis. Thus repeated use of hardwood bark mulch is a double-edged sword.
    Novice home gardeners like hardwood bark mulch because it is dark, keeps that color and does not easily wash away. But out of sight, trouble is brewing. Early signs of manganese toxicity are a gradual decline in growth, iron-deficiency symptoms on the newly emerged leaves, stunted growth and extensive branch dieback.
    Often, the only solution is removal and replacement of plants and soil.
    Repeated application of hardwood bark and composted wood chips recently forced one commercial ­blueberry grower to dig up an acre or more of plants. Manganese had accumulated to nearly 400 pounds to the acre, killing the formerly well-established and productive plants. Lowering the manganese from toxic levels took plowing the fields to a depth of a foot to dilute surface soil by blending in sub-soil.


Ask The Bay Gardener your questions at DR.FRGouin@gmail.com. Please include your name and address.

Use light-tackle techniques for the fairest fight

If you want the best odds for hooking up and landing the most and the biggest migrators in the early trophy rockfish season, then troll. A wide spread of big baits with multiple heavy-action trolling rods spooled with 30- to 50-pound line will give you a definite edge.
    For many anglers, however, the trophy-sized rockfish deserves to be challenged on light tackle. There is nothing certain about tangling with a giant ocean-running striper on medium-weight spin or casting tackle with line testing 20 pounds and under. You’ll not only have to be at the top of your game but also a bit lucky to land a keeper, minimum size 35 inches.
    For the true sport, that’s exactly how it should be. Right from the start it will be a man-versus-fish battle with not much connecting you other than a slender rod and thin, delicate line. A trophy rockfish hooked and landed on light tackle is indeed a trophy.
    As the fish are traveling in the warmer top 15 feet of the water column this time of the year, you don’t need a lot of weight to get the lures to the proper depth. Thus trolling is a viable option. The lighter test and thinner lines on your tackle will allow a medium-sized swimming plug to get down to the proper depths.
    The hottest swimmers for this type of operation are the Rapala X-Raps, Mann’s Stretch Series Plugs and Bomber Long As. For filling the water with sound and vibration to get a big fish’s attention, add Rat-L-Traps.
    Traditional buck-tail jigs in small to medium sizes dressed with skirts and adorned with Bass Assassins, Sassy Shads or similar soft bodies will provide larger silhouettes and interest larger fish. Paddle-tail variations will add noise and vibration to your spread.
    Be wary of especially large hooks. Their thicker diameters, regardless of how sharp they are, can make penetration problematic, especially with the harder mouth structure of older stripers. When you do get a good strike, set the hook firmly and more than once. A big striper can simply hold a lure in its jaws and prevent hook penetration. That’s one of the few drawbacks of using light tackle.
    When boat noise drives the fish down from the top of the water column or they’re feeding near the bottom strata, you can still use light tackle by jigging. Once you marked a pod of big stripers holding deep, metal jigs such as a Crippled Alewife, Stingsilver or Little Jimmy can get down to the sweet spot and induce strikes. Seven- to 12-inch soft plastics like the BKDs and Bass Assassins will also get results when matched with jig heads of proper weight, three-quarters to two ounces.
    Using ultra-thin braided line such as Power Pro, Spiderwire or Fireline gives you a definite advantage. There is less resistance in the water so you get deeper with less weight. And as there is little to no stretch with these lines, you can troll your lures far behind the boat or jig deep water without fear of getting good hook sets on any fish that tries to eat your lures.
    The third and final technique for trophy season light tackle fishing is simply old-fashioned bottom fishing. The best baits right now are fresh menhaden and jumbo bloodworms. The addition of chum to your presentation can also attract attention. The only problems will be the unpredictability of the fish and the fact that they are in small groups and constantly on the move. So as you are committed to one location, patience and persistence will be key.
    The prime locations for presenting these baits will be near the mouths of the larger tributaries where the migratory stripers will tend to stage before moving upriver to spawn. That’s also where they are likely to pause and feed post-spawn in preparation for the journey back to the ocean. Bay shore areas such as Sandy Point State Park, Matapeake State Park, Tolley Point and Point Lookout offer public access where the odds of encountering a giant are also good.
    The trophy season is the ideal time for encountering the biggest rockfish of the year, so be prepared. Make sure your line and leaders are fresh, your knots tight, your hooks sharp and your drags set properly. These migratory giants will test every part of your tackle and all your angling skill.
    Good luck as we welcome the 2017 rockfish season!

Balancing valid interests — without falling off the tightrope

In 90 days of deliberations since Jan. 11, the 2017 Maryland General Assembly told us a lot about the state we’re in. It’s a message bigger than the sum — and subtraction — of the parts of the hundreds of laws passed or the 2,000-plus bills bypassed this year.
    By their actions, our lawmakers defined Maryland as a sovereign state vis-a-vis the federal government, balancing independence with the interdependence of the union. One place you see that message is the Maryland Defense Act, a Joint Resolution enabling the Maryland Attorney General to sue the federal government for illegal or unconstitutional actions.
    This is a smart step given harm that could come our way from a host of new administration initiatives, from ending long-settled programs to clean up Chesapeake Bay to forcing states and localities to assist with rounding up undocumented immigrants.
    At the same time, our General Assembly defined Maryland as a state that balances commercial interests with human and environmental interests. Keeping both those interests in play is, like tightrope walking, a feat of many tiny acts of adjustment.
    Looking at just a couple of new laws, we see that balancing act play out.
    One starts with oysters, though it’s a lot bigger than oysters or one law alone.
    Everybody wants oysters: They’re good in themselves, they’re good for the Bay, they underwrite Chesapeake culture, they support oystermen and their industry all the way to the table, where they’re good eating.
    How do you get enough oysters to go around, when — as every Marylander knows — we’ve loved them almost to death?
    Oyster sanctuaries are a big part of the current plan, and they’re where the story takes us. If oysters are growing so well in sanctuaries, shouldn’t oystermen — also an endangered species — get some of the bounty? Wouldn’t a harvest every couple of years be a good and fair thing?
    We have competing interests, and each has value and allies.
    Gov. Larry Hogan has sworn to make Maryland a business-friendly state, helping people, oystermen included, make a good living. At the same time, Maryland is committed to the Chesapeake, and that means giving oysters every chance.    
    How do you balance the interests?
    Back and forth, in increments of adjustment.
    This year’s compromise keeps oyster sanctuaries closed to harvest for two more years — until lawmakers and regulators have a sustainable management plan to guide and coordinate every oyster decision.
    That’s good: it takes Maryland a step down the road to planfulness, meaning we try to see choices in their full circle of consequences.
    It’s not so good for the oystermen. If I’m right about the kind of state we Marylanders are in, the balance should be tipped in their favor. Maybe we should encourage Gov. Hogan and our lawmakers to treat oystermen like farmers, who are so well incentivized to balance their livelihood with the good of the Bay — and the economy.
    The same kind of balancing act plays out with wider consequences in Maryland’s new law requiring businesses to give paid sick leave to workers. Lawmakers set the threshold at 15 employees, while the governor says 50. With rhetorical pyrotechnics, he’s promised to veto the lawmaker’s bill, which is still likely to become law.
    Still, the bigger point is that both sides — Republican governor and Democratic-controlled General Assembly — want to balance human needs with corporate interests.
    A state that balances both interests — with give and take on both sides — is a pretty good place to live.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher
email editor@bayweekly.com, www.sandraolivettimartin.com

Humans prove to be the real animals in this dramatic war film

In 1939 Warsaw, the Zabinski family — Jan (Johan Heldenbergh: The Tunnel) and Antonina (Jessica Chastain: Miss Sloane) — run a popular zoo.
    Their world is destroyed by invading German tanks and planes. Carpet bombings of the city empty cages, loosing wild animals on the city to be shot down by the Nazis.
    Trying to salvage the remainders of their zoo, the Zabinskis recognize the greater atrocity around them. As Jews are ordered to move to the ghetto, Antonina and Jan put their empty zoo to good use, hiding Jews from the Nazis.
    It’s a dangerous gambit. The Nazis rule by day, transforming cages to storage. By night, the Zabinskis pack their basement and the animal tunnels with people, praying that they’ll be quiet enough to avoid detection.
    The plan works, and the zoo fills with endangered people.
    Still, stress tears the couple apart. Jan goes into the ghetto every day, pretending to collect trash to feed the pigs but instead smuggling out as many men, women and children as his truck will hold. He is haunted by the crimes he witnesses and the conditions people endure.
    Antonina, meanwhile, has caught the eye of Hitler’s head zoologist (Daniel Brühl: The Promise), who shows up at random in hopes of wooing the keeper’s wife. She endures his pawing, but Jan cannot.
    Can the Zabinskis keep their new charges safe?
    Based on the bestselling novel and true story, The Zookeeper’s Wife is a moving but flawed Holocaust drama. Performances are fantastic. But director Niki Caro (McFarland, USA) fails to knit a cohesive whole; time is especially jumbled.
    While Caro adapts Holocaust narrative clichés — children loaded onto trains, burning ghettos and violated women — he uses them effectively. With an extended sequence of Nazi killing of exotic animals, including a bald eagle, he breaks new ground in portraying Nazi evil.
    As the heart of the film, Chastain is a marvel. Strong, kind and willing to make dangerous decisions for the greater good, her Antonina is both an emotional support for traumatized people and their fierce protector. Antonina’s impossible position — beguiling a Nazi to protect her family and her charges — invokes a plot too charged for many movies to dare.
    See it for excellent performances and insight into the history of the resistance in Poland.

Good Drama • PG-13 • 124 mins.

Trophy season opens in just a week

The trophy rockfish season is fast upon us.
    These migratory trophy-sized fish are in spawning mode. First they move up the Bay to their natal headwaters. Then, having spawned, they move back down the Bay, returning to the Atlantic. They move in pods unpredictably. Thus fishing in a fixed spot or targeting a specific area is not the most productive strategy. Constantly moving and presenting baits continually over an area as large as possible is the better method. That’s trolling.
    For these big fish, you’ll be dragging a lure 12 or more inches long. Its size tends to discourage undersized rockfish, less than 35 inches, but it does not eliminate them, as even 16-inch fish will attack and get hooked.
    While the spawning rockfish are almost impossible to anticipate in their movements, some considerations can be helpful. Because of the Coriolis effect caused by the earth’s rotation, a stronger (and saltier) incoming tidal current occurs on the Eastern Shore of the Bay, with a correspondingly greater outgoing tide on the Western Shore. Thus stripers tend to ride the incoming flow up the Bay on the eastern side and leave on the Western Shore’s stronger ebb.
    The keyword is tend because there are other variables at work. The availability of forage fish is equally important as stripers feed throughout the spawn. If the baitfish are congregated on the Western Shore, the rockfish will soon be there as well. If the stripers’ natal water is a Western Shore river, that’s where they will eventually be.
    The migrating pods of striped bass will also transit along the deeper channels of the Bay because that’s where the tidal currents will be the strongest. The temperature comfort zones this time of year will be in the top 15 feet of the water column. That’s the depth where trophy-sized fish can usually be found — unless they are not.
    Boat noise will drive the fish deeper, and a lot of boat noise will put them right on the bottom.
    Feeding fish can also be found down deep unless they’ve keyed on schools of bait higher up in the column. Keeping an eye on the fish-finder will establish where most of the bigger fish are. Adjust your trolling weights and lure type accordingly to target those depths.
    Color also has a part to play in your trophy-fish solution. The traditional selections are chartreuse, white and yellow in fluorescent or standard colors or combinations. There are also days when purple, black, green or red are catching the fish. The only consistent color consideration when fishing the early season is that, inevitably and ironically, the biggest fish will want the color you don’t have. So be prepared and change colors frequently, especially if you are moving over fish that aren’t responding.
    To present your baits over as wide an area as possible, avoid traveling in a straight line, especially directly down or up current. Instead move diagonally, and change course frequently until you find some pattern to the presence of fish. They may be on the edges of deep channels, in the middle of the channel or over a specific depth.
    Finally, keep your boat’s speed on the slow side. Three to four knots is about right, but don’t hesitate to vary your speeds a little to find the speed at which the fish want the baits presented. Rockfish will often take bait moved very slowly, but they’ll rarely hit one being trolled faster than five knots.
    Have you got all that? Is your boat shipshape and your tackle set? Then you’ll be ready to go April 15.

The misnamed Jerusalem artichoke supplies both

The Jerusalem artichoke is a sunflower cousin that gives both flowers and food. In late August and into September, bright yellow flowers cover its tall stems. Below ground, it is growing tuber-like structures on its roots that resemble pachymorphs of the bearded iris. The tubers are edible.
    This North America native is invasive and must be grown in an aboveground container to prevent it from spreading. I grow my Jerusalem artichokes in a plastic half-barrel with the base partially buried to prevent it from tipping over. They like a rich organic soil that is well drained.
    Plant the tubers in spring. Once started, you will never have to replant — unless you harvest 100 percent of the tubers, which is nearly impossible. Abundant lumpy yellowish-white tubers grow from near the base of the stem to as deep as 18 inches below the surface of the soil. The tubers may be individual or clustered.
    Harvest the tubers in the fall after the stems have died back, using a digging fork so as to not damage them. Start digging from the inside walls of the barrel toward the center. The tubers will be scattered at varying depths. Remove as many as you can find.
    After you have finished digging them up, blend two parts by volume existing soil with one part compost and refill the planter. Plant four to six of the smallest tubers about two inches deep for next season’s crop. Many stems will emerge in the spring.
    Eat the tubers raw or cooked. First scrub them thoroughly with a stiff vegetable brush. Then, working underwater, scrape the corners with a sharp knife to remove the brown areas and soil. The tubers do not have to be peeled. They can be steamed or boiled and mashed like potatoes. Or they can be eaten raw like a radish or shredded and added to salads.
    Go slow at first. Although the tuber is mostly starch, Jerusalem artichokes contain a natural compound called inulin that is not absorbed by the digestive system. It acts like a mild laxative to some people. Before substituting them for mashed potatoes, start with a small sample both raw and cooked.


Spot-Planting Grass

Q    I need to plant grass in bare spots. What is the best procedure?

–Paul Lefavre

A    Use a steel rake or potato digger to loosen the top two inches of soil. Rake an inch-thick layer of compost into the soil and smooth the surface. Sprinkle grass seed into the top layer of soil-compost blend. Water using a fine mist. Sprinkle a thin layer of straw or shredded paper over the seeded area to create about 30 percent shade, then mist again. Mist daily until the seed germinates, reducing to one misting every two days for the first week, then twice weekly until the new grass seedlings develop their dark green color.


Ask The Bay Gardener your questions at DR.FRGouin@gmail.com. Please include your name and address.