The Q&A Archives: Planting in a New Climate

Question: I am originally from upstate New York, and moved to Maryland about 7 years ago. At first I though my problem was just poor soil, but after 5 years of adding compost (about six inches, composted over 2 years) plants are growing the way I expect them to be. I'm experimenting to see what will grow where but plants I thought bullet proof, like marigolds, aren't taking hold and plants I was taught were finicky, like azaleas, grow fine with little or no care. Is this due to the slightly shorter summer days here at a lower latitude, or temperature differences? Maybe I should grow different varieties in this region? I plant both vegetables and flowers. I've checked out the local cooperative extension site but it isn't as extensive as what I was able to get in NY.

Answer: Based on what you've mentioned, I think the troubles you've had may be due to your soil's pH. Azaleas need acidic soil (pH 4.5-5) in order to thrive, and marigolds prefer a pH closer to neutral (around 6-6.5). Have your soil tested locally bythe extension service, or use Burpee's home soil test. Addition of organic matter helps neutralize pH, and it sounds like, after all those years of effort, it's paid off! But garden lime can be used as a shortcut to "sweeter" soil.

Burpee offers varieties that do well almost anywhere, but if you are looking for those that are tried and true in your neck of the woods, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (PO Box 170, Earlysville VA 22936; ph# 804/973-4703) is one source to try. Hope this helps!

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