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Gardening

Learn from plantsman Bill Cullina and ­benefit Unity Gardens

This time of year gardeners feel the itch for warm weather. We’re wistful about anything green and have gardening books spread out in inconvenient places in eagerness for another season.     Scratch the itch by honing your design skills with plantsman, author and Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens executive director William Cullina. He comes to Annapolis March 7 to talk about the botany of design.

Native seeds need to cool down before sprouting

Seeds of native plants in the temperate region require chilling, called stratification, before they can germinate and grow seedlings. The acorn of the mighty oak must be stratified before it can germinate in the spring. But don’t go placing acorns in the freezer before planting.

Some bloom only in short days; ­others, only in long days

Did you know that in many plants, flowering — and bulbing — is based on the number of hours of exposure to light?     This fact of plant biology explains many mysteries. Understand it, and you’ll be a smarter and more successful gardener.

Turn that manure into compost instead of applying it to fields

The new governor of Maryland has made a major error in allowing poultry farmers to continue applying their phosphorus-laden chicken manure on land that is already overloaded with phosphorus.     What the chicken farmers and the governor are ignoring is scientific evidence that clearly identifies excessive levels of phosphorus in soils as the cause for phosphorus-induced trace element deficiencies, lower yields, lower nutrient values and Bay pollution.

Getting to the roots of woody plants

Did you know that when the stems of an oak tree are growing in the spring, the roots are not growing? Conversely, when the top of the plant has stopped growing and has stopped producing new leaves, the roots initiate growth. It’s the same with most woody plants. Most are unable to grow at both ends at the same time.

The underground story

Did you know that your bare garden soil is losing its nutrients to winter?     That’s just what’s happening in your vegetable garden unless you planted a cover crop last fall. And in your flower garden, unless it’s planted with perennials or woody plants.     Here’s the underground story.

Potted outdoor plants need cold-hardy roots to survive winter

Did you know that the roots of plants are not as cold-hardy as the stems and branches? What’s more, the roots of different plant species are killed at different temperatures. This is information you need to know when selecting plants for growing in above-ground containers that are to remain outdoors all year long.

Knowledge makes power

The horticultural green industries — nursery, landscaping and greenhouse crops — are the second largest agricultural industry, second to poultry in Maryland and third in the nation. With home gardening the number one hobby, it is no wonder that the demand for trained horticulturists is so high.       Gardening is therapeutic, and those who partake in it realize great satisfaction from watching plants grow as well as enjoying the flowers, fruits or vegetables they produce.

Put these tools — not useless ­garden gadgets — under the ­Christmas tree

I hope you had a laugh over my column on useless garden gadgets two weeks back. This week I’m turning serious, suggesting useful tools the gardeners on your holiday shopping list will want and use.

Decking your halls, from trees to poinsettias

Buy a Fresh, Safe Christmas Tree     For the freshest Christmas trees, buy locally from a Christmas tree grower’s lot or cut your own. Otherwise, you could be buying an imported tree cut in late October or early November.     Fresh-cut Douglas fir, Scots pine and blue spruce are the most fire-safe Christmas tree species, ranked by the State Fire Marshal based on research conducted by the Bay Gardener in cooperation with the Maryland Christmas Tree Growers.