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The Bay Gardener by Dr. Francis Gouin

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.

Great opportunities and satisfying careers for students of horticulture

Did you know that horticultural crops and services are major income-producing agricultural industries in Maryland? The green industries alone — including nursery plants, greenhouse crops, garden centers and landscape contracting — are the second largest agricultural income-producing industries behind only poultry. Horticulture includes fruits, vegetables, nursery crops, greenhouse crops, Christmas trees, landscape contracting, and garden center and arboretum management. 

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.

A different rockin’ new year

We are going to have a good year in 2015. That’s what I’m predicting, despite continuing reports of rockfish population problems.     I must disclose, however, that when it comes to predicting what Tidewater anglers can expect in the year to come, the last few seasons I’ve built up close to a 100 percent accuracy rating — 100 percent wrong.

Our new home welcomed us by testing our resourcefulness

Clara and I moved piece by piece to our new home in Deale. We started moving our belongings from College Park on Thanksgiving Day of 1990, using our station wagon and neighbors’ trucks. Most of the move was made on weekends. Mid-week, one of us would make the trip to Deale to feed Pumpkin, the cat left behind by the previous owners. We selected the name Upakrik Farm while eating dinner in a restaurant in Wayson’s Corner on a return trip to College Park.     We finished our moving on December 24.