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Articles by Dr. Francis Gouin

How to use seed catalogs to best advantage

The seed catalogs have been coming in the mail since early December; most will have been mailed by mid January. Many of the catalogs offer bonuses if you order early. You can save money by purchasing early, and you are guaranteed against having to accept substitutions.
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Heat and steam mean the microbes are working

The temperature in the middle of my compost pile ranges from 90 to 120 degrees. I measure using a compost thermometer with a 14-inch stem. The height of the pile has been shrinking rapidly, with the center sinking faster than the edges. Temperature and shrinkage tell me that the microbes are feasting, changing those leaves, weeds and grass clippings into compost.
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Otherwise winter’s chill will wilt your Christmas blooms

Keep Christmas in bloom by shielding your poinsettias from sudden drops in temperature. Remember, poinsettia are a tropical plant, so a sudden chill below 40 degrees can cause the plant to quickly lose foliage, including the red or white bracks.
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Stop them now and save yourself extra work come spring

Have you looked at your garden lately? When you do, don’t be surprised if you see chickweed, henbit, annual bluegrass, cranesbill, etc. starting to create a green carpet. Those weeds are pretty small now, but if you don’t get out there and control them, they will be much larger next spring.
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How to buy and keep a fresh, fire-safe tree

The best way to purchase a Christmas tree from a corner lot is to buy as soon as the tree lot opens. The longer you wait to purchase that tree, the more water it will lose and the more likely it will become a fire hazard.
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Cutting excursions are fun for the family; plus, fresh-cut Christmas trees are safer and smell better

Until 1970, when I published the first directory of Choose and Cut Christmas trees in Maryland, only two growers in the state were marketing their Christmas trees — with limited success — by inviting people to cut their own. Thinking it was a good idea, I convinced another 10 Christmas tree growers to give it a try....

Thanks to my garden, we eat fresh and well all year long

This year’s fall vegetable garden has been a success.
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Whatever you call them, plant them now for spring blooms

Jonquils, daffodils, narcissus: Which is what?
    Narcissus and daffodils are one and the same, according to the Encyclopedia of Horticulture, the bible of the horticultural industry. Jonquils, however, are a sub-species of narcissus.
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If you want big blooms that last more than one season, you’ll need to dig deep

This is bulb-planting time. But if you plant tulips following the package instructions, the plant will reach its full potential only in the first year. That’s because those instructions were written for growing tulips in cooler regions. Here in Southern Maryland, tulip bulbs should be planted at least two inches deeper than recommended by the distributors.
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Cloned seedlings on sale now

Seedlings of the Wye Oak are once again offered for sale by Maryland Department of Natural Resources. I myself can guarantee that these are truly seedlings of the original Wye Oak, as I started cloning them in the late 1990s before the Wye Oak was destroyed by high winds 2002. It normally takes 28 to 32 years for oak seedlings to mature and start producing acorns. Clones are quicker....