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Gardening

What you’ll gain (and lose) — plus how to get started

Growing vegetables in raised beds is highly recommended when there is limited space, or if your soil does not drain well or is stony. But to be successful, the selected site needs at least eight to 10 hours of full sun if your intent is to grow tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, eggplants, squash, cucumbers and snap beans. With less than eight hours of direct sun, you will be limited to growing lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, cabbage, broccoli and kale.

Gene splicing is latest form of ­systematic plant breeding

What do I think about genetically modified plants? Here’s my answer to that question I so often hear.

Learn the trick — and the science

Hardy mums planted for color last fall most likely survived the winter and are now rising in clumps in your garden. Here’s how to get them ready to bloom again this fall.     To move mums to new spots: For lots of smaller plants, dig the clumps and divide them into smaller clumps of one, three or five stems each, with roots firmly attached. Transplant them 12 to 18 inches apart. After they have started to grow, prune the stems, leaving only three or four leaves near the bottom of the stem, for two to three branches per plant.

Byway meadows help pollinators thrive

It’s a sunny summer’s day, and you’re taking a leisurely drive on a scenic Bay Country byway. Dotting the roadside are native Maryland meadows, alive with the waving of tall grasses and a jolly mashup of brightly hued wildflowers. There are the lavender-blue daisy-like aster, the bright yellow plumes of the goldenrod and the starry pink crowns of milkweed.

Pros and cons of straw, paper, ­plastic and reflective mulches

It is a big mistake to mulch your tomato plants when you plant them. When organic mulches such as straw are applied at planting time on cool soil, the cool will linger. This will retard growth, flowering and fruiting. Wait to mulch vegetable gardens until soil temperatures are between 70 and 75 degrees.

Once trees reach a certain size, roots cannot re-stabilize the plant

The combination of saturated soil and strong winds has tilted trees and tall shrubs. If the trunk of a tilted tree is thicker than four ­inches, it is unlikely that the tree can be straightened and remain upright without permanent support. This is also true of large shrubs. The problem lies with the inability of roots larger than two inches in diameter to regenerate and develop sufficient size to stabilize the plant.

Keeping up, veggie by veggie

This has been a great year for asparagus. Spears are popping out of the ground daily, growing four to six inches in one day. I find it best to cut the asparagus just below the soil line and harvest spears that are at least six inches above ground. This allows you to snap the bottom of the stem, which guarantees they will be free of woody tissues. Keep asparagus beds free of weeds by hoeing weekly. To avoid promoting additional weed growth, scrape away the weeds with minimal disturbance of the soil.

Chesapeake’s Bounty connects shoppers with local farms, fish and more

Just a few weeks ago, in winter’s last stand, shoppers in light flannels and heavy vests scurried from the damp sidewalk into Chesapeake’s Bounty North Beach store. A smile from Veronica Cristo and an aroma of apple cider warmed the room. The wood floor creaked as they drifted through waist-high aisles of sweet potatoes, apples and stacked jars of local honey and jam, on their way to a table of dinosaur kale and bright green spinach.

Sometimes you need fertilizers

Am I an organic gardener? I’m often asked that question. I suspect that many who read this column conclude that my frequent reference to composting and compost in gardening means I must be an organic gardener. They seem shocked when I say that I use chemical fertilizers in addition to amending my soils with compost. My reasoning is that of a scientist.

Agricultural program grows at Phoenix Academy

Next time you cruise down Cedar Park Road in Annapolis during school hours, you may well do a double-take as you pass the field next to Phoenix Academy. You’re likely to see rabbits munching greens in a sturdily built hutch, hear nanny goats bleating or glimpse teens carefully weeding a row of curly-leafed kale. Three years after a Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education was launched at this K-12 Anne Arundel County public school, there’s plenty of evidence that impressive hands-on learning is going on both within and outside the school walls.