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The Bay Gardener by Dr. Francis Gouin

Each species has a different trick

Crows, morning doves, pigeons and black birds love to pluck sprouting seeds of corn, snap beans and lima beans in the garden. Robins love to eat strawberries, while mocking birds and brown thrush love to eat blueberries as they ripen. Birds can also do a great deal of damage to maturing sweet corn. They will rip away the husks and silk and peck out the kernels from the tops of the ears.     How to deter them?

Here’s how to make it work

Making compost in a drum composter is very different from making compost in a bin on the surface of the ground. When you’re composting in a bin on the ground, any excess water drains from the compost into the ground. Any moisture released in the air surrounding the pile is quickly disbursed by wind and air currents.     Composting drums have vents, but most of the moisture released during decomposition condensates on the surface and drops back into the composting materials. As temperatures increase, more water is carried by the warm air.

It takes two species for fruit trees to blossom

A Bay Weekly reader complains that her apple trees have not produced any fruit during the five years that she has had them in her garden. All five, she told me, are of the same variety: golden delicious trees. She was told that for the trees to produce fruit, she needed to plant more than one tree. Since her preference was for Golden Delicious, that is what she purchased and planted.

Your plants can’t tell you what they need; a soil test can

I recently received photographs of dead and dying plants along with soil test results sent by a Bay Weekly reader. The reader had sent numerous plant samples to a university for analysis only to be told that the injury was due to a fungus. As I studied the photographs, I could not identify a fungus that would cause such symptoms, so I requested a complete soil analysis.

Rather than gimicks, test your soil for a ­productive garden

On a Saturday morning garden show, a caller was advised to plant long-stemmed tomato plants deep. Supposedly, burying the stems deep in the garden soil forces the plant to produce new roots along the stem, resulting in a stronger plant. I strongly disagree.

For a stronger lawn, keep the height at 3 or 4 inches

For years I have recommended cutting fescue and bluegrass lawns to a height no less than three inches, even better four inches, for a stronger, weed-free lawn. Many people object to this height and cannot understand why I insist. The answer is simple.

Or hire goats to do the job

A Bay Weekly reader recently asked me how he could clear away the underbrush in woods surrounding his home without using weed killers. It can be done with persistence and perseverance.     You don’t want to cut away any brush until you see mature foliage on the brush you desire to control. Mature leaves go from light green to dark green. The change is very noticeable in such perennial weeds as honeysuckle, poison ivy and trumpet vine.

How to transplant bedding plants

Are you one of those gardeners who is much too careful about disturbing roots of bedding plants when transplanting them into the garden?

Woody ornamentals need ­periodic rejuvenation to stay healthy and productive

It’s never too late to whack that buddleia down to the ground, even though it is flushing new growth. One of my butterfly shrubs was getting so large that in early March I cut the stump close to the ground with a chainsaw. Already the new growth is 18 to 24 inches tall with an abundance of young shoots coming from the roots.

Never use horse manure without composting it first

The proliferation of horse farms in southern Maryland has resulted in owners convincing their friends and neighbors that horse manure is great for the garden. After one experience with using horse manure in the garden, you’ll discover that it’s not what it’s cracked up to be.