Mid-Atlantic

April, 2009
Regional Report

Consider Tax Credit for Geothermal Heat Pump

As part of the recently passed "Stimulus Bill" (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009), homeowners can now deduct 30% of the cost of a geothermal heat pump system. No cap. If you're thinking about energy-saving improvements, GSHP is touted as 400 percent efficient.

Plan to Divide Daffodils

While spring bulbs are at their peak, walk around and enjoy. Also notice where daffodils are massed in clumps or less than floriforous. And patches without bulbs. Take photos and notes now. After the daffies have bloomed and their foliage has wilted to brown, divide those clumps. Gently separate the bulbs. Plant each bulb individually -- 6 to 8 inches apart -- in areas sparse of spring color. Mix a small amount of slow-release mineral fertilizer with soil in the bottom of each planting hole.

Don't Immediately Replace a Dead Rhodi with Another

Unfortunately rhododendrons and azaleas are increasingly dying from phytophthora. Rhododendron wilt, otherwise known as phytophthora root rot, is caused by the fungus Phytophthora cinnamomi. The fungus is a water mold, and water is required to infect plants. Most problems occur in wet or poorly drained areas, and especially on clay sites. The leaves become pale, droop, roll downward parallel to the midrib, wilt, and die. Take samples of the infected branches and leaves to your local arboretum or garden center's plant clinic for accurate diagnosis. If the problem is the fungus phytophthora, the planting site will need remediation before you replant rhodies or shrubs/plants in heath (Ericaceae) family. Otherwise, try another shrub such as a hydrangea.

Use Your Black Gold

The leaves, grass, and veggie/fruit discards you put in your compost bin or pile last year have likely turned to "black gold" -- crumbly, rich, black humus. From summer and fall through winter, microbes have been processing those nitrogen/carbon materials. That decomposed, nutritious humus is ready to shovel under your roses, azaleas, hydrangeas. On top of your veggie garden. Around your perennials. Start your new compost pile or bin with the few intact plant stalks that didn't have enough time to thoroughly break down.

Lighten Up Your Lavender

Pruning fragrant lavender is one of my favorite garden tasks. Healthy blue-green leaves should be visible on your lavender plants by now -- either full-sized or as sprouts. Clip off dead flower stalks to just above a set of colorful leaves. Prune away dead stems; they'll snap and be brown/gray inside and out. Live stems bend and are white inside with a hint of green. Look carefully at the ends of the pieces you cut -- so you remove the dead to make way for the living.

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