Garden Q&A Archive

Garden Q&A Archive

Each week the University of Maryland Extension's Home and Garden Information Center offers free gardening and pest information. Have a question about your home or garden? Call 800-342-2507 or send a question to the website at hgic.umd.edu.

Sumac with red berries isn't poisonous and azalea growing tips

2:03 PM EDT, August 15, 2014

Garden Q&A

Sumac with red berries isn't poisonous and azalea growing tips

I'm afraid I have poison sumac at the edge of my lawn and that in the fall its red berries will spread it. Doesn't it sucker, too? What should I do?

Bait worms could bring invasive species to your garden

10:21 PM EDT, August 21, 2014

Garden Q&A

Bait worms could bring invasive species to your garden

Fishing with my nephew made me wonder — would bait worms be good to add to my garden?

Plant late to avoid squash vine borer

6:21 PM EDT, August 7, 2014

Plant late to avoid squash vine borer

When we realized our zucchini were dying of squash vine borer, we tried making the vertical cuts in the stem and fishing out the white grubby worms, but we were too late. How can we never have that happen to our beautiful zucchini?

Eliminating standing water helps get rid of mosquitoes

4:29 PM EDT, August 1, 2014

Garden Q&A

Eliminating standing water helps get rid of mosquitoes

A company sprayed my neighbor's yard for mosquitoes, but when I called the company it admitted that its chemical killed all kinds of insects, including pollinators and beneficials. So I don't want to do that, but we are getting eaten alive by mosquitoes all day! Help!

Lights are a magnet to insects at night

5:10 PM EDT, July 24, 2014

Garden Q&A

Lights are a magnet to insects at night

Tiny flies are coming through the screen by my lamp table and dying in piles. How can I stop this?

Tomato plants are especially vulnerable to persistent herbicides

4:47 PM EDT, July 10, 2014

Garden Q&A

Tomato plants are especially vulnerable to persistent herbicides

All of the leaves on some of my tomato plants have curled down, except a few twisted in all directions. They were growing great for a while. It looks contagious because they're all together. What is this?

Keep squash foliage dry to avoid wet rot

5:06 PM EDT, July 2, 2014

Garden Q&A

Keep squash foliage dry to avoid wet rot

Every time baby squash in my garden starts to grow, it dies. I hose down the garden every day, but it still gets fuzzy and dries up. How can I stop this?

Dying Norway maples can't be saved

7:27 PM EDT, June 25, 2014

Garden Q&A

Dying Norway maples can't be saved

My Crimson King Norway maples are slowly dying, one by one. I see trunk cracks but can't see any disease or insects. How can I save the rest?

Tips to keep away ticks and Lyme disease

5:24 PM EDT, June 18, 2014

Garden Q&A

Tips to keep away ticks and Lyme disease

My son has had Lyme disease twice — serious infections requiring intravenous antibiotics. How can I keep ticks out of my yard? He plays in our wooded lot every day, and I'm at my wit's end!

Not all beetles in your yard are emerald ash borers

12:02 AM EDT, June 6, 2014

Garden Q&A

Not all beetles in your yard are emerald ash borers

I found a shiny green bug in my yard, and I'm afraid it is the emerald ash borer that is killing ash trees in Maryland. What should I do about my ash tree?

Prevent further stress for suffering Leyland cypress

4:00 PM EDT, May 28, 2014

Garden Q&A

Prevent further stress for suffering Leyland cypress

My row of Leyland cypresses suffered terrible winter burn this year. Will fertilizer help them recover faster? A couple of them look dead. Is that possible?

Be on the lookout for pine needle scale

7:49 PM EDT, May 21, 2014

Garden Q&A

Be on the lookout for pine needle scale

My mugo pine has white things on the needles like paint flakes. Do I need to address this?

Plant a variety of tomatoes for growth all summer long

3:04 PM EDT, May 14, 2014

Garden Q&A

Plant a variety of tomatoes for growth all summer long

Last year, all my tomatoes (all the same kind) ripened all at once and then I didn't get any more. How can I get tomatoes all season?

Make sure pesticides don't harm helpful pollinators

4:27 PM EDT, May 2, 2014

Garden Q&A

Make sure pesticides don't harm helpful pollinators

How can I save pollinators like honeybees and still use pesticides when I need them?

Invasive species' reach can be curbed with these tips

4:03 PM EDT, April 23, 2014

Invasive species' reach can be curbed with these tips

With all the invasive species out there, should I cut down my Japanese maple?

Invasive Plant, Pest and Disease Awareness Month sheds light on problem

5:18 PM EDT, April 16, 2014

Garden Q&A

Invasive Plant, Pest and Disease Awareness Month sheds light on problem

When a plant is listed as invasive, how far does it spread? How far apart should I plant bamboo for a privacy screen?

Test old grass seed to see if it's still viable

7:41 PM EDT, April 2, 2014

Garden Q&A

Test old grass seed to see if it's still viable

I bought grass seed last fall but didn't get a chance to plant it. It sat on the porch all winter. Is it still good?

Fewer branches don't add up to a safer tree

7:46 PM EDT, March 19, 2014

Garden Q&A

Fewer branches don't add up to a safer tree

I want to prune branches out of a tree so the wind will blow through it and it won't fall on my house. Is that possible?

Fine grass is good in heavy shade

8:24 PM EDT, March 26, 2014

Garden Q&A

Fine grass is good in heavy shade

What grass blend do you recommend for shade? I live in the woods.

Dogwood leaf spots don't mean doom

4:10 PM EDT, March 14, 2014

Dogwood leaf spots don't mean doom

My dogwood had leaf spots last summer. Now my neighbors say it's dead and I should cut it down. Should I?

A simple home test for toxic soil

6:14 PM EST, March 5, 2014

Garden Q&A

A simple home test for toxic soil

Nothing will grow in one area of my lawn. I've tried shrubs and perennials multiple times and watered when needed, but they still die. How do I test for a toxin in the soil?

April is a good time for planting trees

2:49 PM EST, February 26, 2014

April is a good time for planting trees

I ordered some trees from North Carolina and the nursery wanted to send them in February. What is a good time to have them delivered?

Home composting has environmental benefits

2:52 PM EST, February 19, 2014

Home composting has environmental benefits

I'm feeling a little guilty about starting a compost pile for my kitchen scraps. Don't landfills need organic "trash" sources to counterbalance the inorganic trash?

Deer don't have to ruin your evergreen trees

3:46 PM EST, February 11, 2014

Garden Q&A

Deer don't have to ruin your evergreen trees

Deer have stripped all the leaves off my evergreen and my Nellie Stevens holly. Will they grow back, or should I cut them down?

Before buying compost, check for excess rocks

3:00 PM EST, February 5, 2014

Before buying compost, check for excess rocks

I recently purchased several truckloads of composted horse manure for my garden. Why are there so many rocks in it?

Pruning shrubs takes technique to look natural

2:14 PM EST, January 29, 2014

Pruning shrubs takes technique to look natural

When I trim my shrubs, they seem to go crazy, with new branches growing in all directions. My neighbor's shrubs never do that. They look natural and graceful. How come?

Winter still brings gardening opportunities

2:14 PM EST, January 22, 2014

Winter still brings gardening opportunities

What can I do outdoors when we have a surprise nice day? I'm itching to garden.

Cockroaches require multipronged battle plan

5:33 PM EST, January 15, 2014

Garden Q&A

Cockroaches require multipronged battle plan

How can I get rid of cockroaches? I keep my apartment clean, sprinkled Borax and tried sticky traps, but they're still here.

Pine seed bug resembles slender stink bug

12:48 AM EST, December 28, 2013

Pine seed bug resembles slender stink bug

Some very slow-moving gray bugs I call "skinny" stink bugs (not aggressive or biting) are getting inside from the floor or fireplace. Are they breeding in walls? My kids are scared of bugs, and I would love a safe solution.

Douglas fir not native to Maryland

2:11 PM EST, January 10, 2014

Douglas fir not native to Maryland

The top of my Douglas fir is dead. What killed it? It's a native tree, so shouldn't it grow well? If I cut off the top will it grow back?

After harvesting, air-dry garlic before storing

3:13 PM EST, December 24, 2013

After harvesting, air-dry garlic before storing

Why are my garlic cloves brown? I grow it from certified disease-free heads and rotate the garlic to avoid disease.

Don't use fertilizer as de-icer

6:06 PM EST, December 19, 2013

Garden Q&A

Don't use fertilizer as de-icer

Since I can't use fertilizer as a de-icer now that Maryland has a new lawn fertilizer law, what should I use instead that won't damage my plants? I'm on a fixed income.

How to prepare poinsettias for the holidays

2:19 PM EST, December 4, 2013

Garden Q&A

How to prepare poinsettias for the holidays

I saved my poinsettia from last year and it grew happily all summer. I put it in a closet two months ago to make it bloom red again for the holidays, but it is turning yellow instead. What should I do?

Lantana can be brought indoors in winter

2:33 PM EST, November 22, 2013

Garden Q&A

Lantana can be brought indoors in winter

Can I bring a lantana indoors? If so, can I prune it so it takes up less room?

How to delay Christmas cactus blooms

4:49 PM EST, November 14, 2013

How to delay Christmas cactus blooms

As soon as I brought my Christmas cactus indoors, it budded. It has finished blooming before Thanksgiving! How can I slow it down next year?

Native praying mantis is beneficial to garden

1:49 PM EST, November 7, 2013

Garden Q&A

Native praying mantis is beneficial to garden

I found an egg case when pruning my shrub. It has light brown "Styrofoam," like a praying mantis egg case, but it's narrow with a cross hatch down the back. Will this hatch caterpillars?

Blacktop and tree roots don't go together

3:55 PM EDT, October 31, 2013

Garden Q&A

Blacktop and tree roots don't go together

Tree roots are pushing up the blacktop in my driveway. They're either from two beautiful white pines or two equally beautiful American hollies. They were planted by the original owners of our 1931 house. I love these trees and don't want to hurt them but would like to repair the driveway. Any suggestions?

November 3, 2013

Proper equipment can make gutter cleaning a breeze

Now that autumn has arrived, I'm looking for advice on how to clean the gutters on my house. When is the best time and what tools are needed?

Fallen leaves don't need to be in pieces to use as mulch

2:27 PM EDT, October 25, 2013

Fallen leaves don't need to be in pieces to use as mulch

Do I have to cut up fallen leaves with a mower before I use them as mulch? I don't have a mulching mower.

4:49 PM EDT, October 10, 2013

Garden Q&A

Insects, not squirrels, are culprits behind falling twigs

Our yard is absolutely covered with the tips of tree branches. The tree (don't know what kind) isn't dropping fall leaves yet, so what's going on? Squirrels?

Grass seed must to be wet to grow

2:35 PM EDT, October 4, 2013

Garden Q&A

Grass seed must to be wet to grow

How much watering do I need to do after I put down grass seed? Once a day? Twice? Will dew keep it wet?

Fertilizer restrictions go into effect Oct. 1

2:06 PM EDT, September 27, 2013

Garden Q&A

Fertilizer restrictions go into effect Oct. 1

What kind of lawn fertilizer should I use in the fall? There are so many kinds with different numbers and different chemicals and some with zero chemicals.

Stink bugs are on the move

2:07 PM EDT, September 27, 2013

Stink bugs are on the move

Stink bugs are starting to gather on my screens and I know they are looking to get inside and escape the cooler weather. What can I do to keep them out?

Make 'lasagna' in your yard

5:12 PM EDT, September 19, 2013

Make 'lasagna' in your yard

I want to do a lasagna garden. Will that work over a zoysiagrass lawn?

Webworms unlikely to harm trees

5:12 PM EDT, September 13, 2013

Webworms unlikely to harm trees

A ton of tent caterpillars just ate the leaves on my tree. The branches are too high for us to cut off. Will the tree die?

'Naked ladies' can pop up in late summer

5:54 PM EDT, September 5, 2013

Garden Q&A

'Naked ladies' can pop up in late summer

A gorgeous pink flower that looks like a lily is emerging in spots around my yard. The flowers have long stems 2 to 3 feet tall but no leaves. Did someone plant this, or did it just grow naturally? This is our first year in this house.

Bring back the magic of the butterflies

1:49 PM EDT, August 30, 2013

Garden Q&A

Bring back the magic of the butterflies

My butterflies were magical this year, there were so many! What did I do right so I can do it again?

On knockout roses, plus a daisy as plant of the week

1:49 PM EDT, August 23, 2013

On knockout roses, plus a daisy as plant of the week

My Knockout roses are not doing well. First I had to treat them for rose slugs eating the leaves. Now the leaves of two trunks are fading to a pale green. Are they dying? How is that possible with a Knockout?

Use lime to deter squirrels from tomatoes

12:10 PM EDT, August 16, 2013

Garden Q&A

Use lime to deter squirrels from tomatoes

How can I keep squirrels off my tomatoes?

Kudzu bug moves into Maryland

6:18 PM EDT, August 8, 2013

Garden Q&A

Kudzu bug moves into Maryland

I hear a new bug that eats kudzu is coming to Maryland. Isn't that a good thing, since kudzu is an invasive plant?

Harvest cucumbers while they are young

7:26 PM EDT, August 1, 2013

Garden Q&A

Harvest cucumbers while they are young

My cucumbers are big but not so beautiful. They have really hard seeds and are yellowish. What do they need?

What looks like ground cover may be invasive plant

7:04 PM EDT, July 25, 2013

Garden Q&A

What looks like ground cover may be invasive plant

My neighbor said she will give me a plant that had white flowers with four petals and a center that sticks up like a skinny green nose. Leaves are a pointy heart shape. It filled in a huge bare area for her, but she doesn't know the name.

3:50 PM EDT, July 17, 2013

Beetle can cause raspberry plant to wilt

The tips of my red raspberry canes wilted. They've always been so healthy; what's happening? It's not lack of water.

Heat can build quickly for tomato plants in containers

5:26 PM EDT, July 3, 2013

Garden Q&A

Heat can build quickly for tomato plants in containers

Is my tomato plant going to be too hot in a black plastic pot on my balcony? It gets full afternoon sun.

Garden Q&A: Age fresh wood chips before using in garden

6:33 PM EDT, June 27, 2013

Garden Q&A

Garden Q&A: Age fresh wood chips before using in garden

My bean, squash, cucumber and pepper plants are stunted and yellow in color. We cut down a huge maple tree and tilled all the wood chips from the cuttings into the garden to improve the soil this spring. The garden has produced well in previous years.

How to reuse downy mildew-infected soil in the landscape

7:18 PM EDT, June 7, 2013

Garden Q&A

How to reuse downy mildew-infected soil in the landscape

Last year my potted impatiens had that terrible new disease, impatiens downy mildew, and all died. Can I use my old infected potting soil in non-flower beds this year? Send it to the landfill?

Nandina not invasive in Maryland, but it can be toxic to birds

4:26 PM EDT, June 20, 2013

Nandina not invasive in Maryland, but it can be toxic to birds

I've learned that nandina berries kill cedar waxwings. I love birds! Should everyone cut down their nandina bushes?

Weed pesticide finds its way to the roots of trees

12:18 PM EDT, June 17, 2013

Garden Q&A

Weed pesticide finds its way to the roots of trees

My son had beautiful, big willow oaks lining his gravel driveway until he put down a weed killer on the driveway weeds. Now the oak leaves have browned on the tree halves facing the driveway. What can we do at this point to save the trees?

Keeping row covers on all season is fine for most crops

5:04 PM EDT, May 22, 2013

Keeping row covers on all season is fine for most crops

I plan to cover my string beans with floating row cover to keep off the Mexican bean beetles. Can I leave it on after the beans start flowering? What about using it on other vegetables?

Getting vultures to relocate takes persistence

2:28 PM EDT, May 10, 2013

Garden Q&A

Getting vultures to relocate takes persistence

Vultures have moved into a very tall tree above our house and car. To say there are "bird droppings" is an understatement. Not to mention our house looks cursed. What can we do?

Potted hydrangea may thrive outdoors – or not

3:42 PM EDT, May 1, 2013

Garden Q&A

Potted hydrangea may thrive outdoors – or not

I was given a potted hydrangea flower as an Easter gift. Can I plant that outdoors?

Stop stiltgrass in its tracks before it goes to seed

6:23 PM EDT, April 26, 2013

Garden Q&A

Stop stiltgrass in its tracks before it goes to seed

Stiltgrass has taken over a 20-by-10-foot area of my woods and now it's getting into my lawn. I will use crabgrass pre-emergent for it on the lawn, but should I rake away the leaves and apply it in the woods?

More mulch is not better

7:23 PM EDT, April 17, 2013

Garden Q&A

More mulch is not better

Please settle an argument. You say to spread no more than 1-2 inches of mulch around a tree. Since mulch holds moisture in soil, isn't more mulch even better?

Boxwood blight means avoid mixing old and new plants

7:11 PM EDT, April 11, 2013

Garden Q&A

Boxwood blight means avoid mixing old and new plants

People with old boxwoods are being warned not to plant new boxwoods nearby, but what about those of us with no boxwoods who want some? They're so deer-resistant.

Loose soil best for root vegetables

4:44 PM EDT, April 4, 2013

Loose soil best for root vegetables

I'd like to grow carrots, but I hear it's tricky. Any tips?

Warm winters can hurt lilac blooms

2:08 PM EDT, March 27, 2013

Warm winters can hurt lilac blooms

The last couple of years my lilac hasn't bloomed. It's always been a favorite. What can I do?

Many options for creating butterfly garden

12:25 PM EDT, March 21, 2013

Garden Q&A

Many options for creating butterfly garden

I want to plant a butterfly garden for my grandchildren. What plants would you suggest beyond butterfly bush?

Compost should go beyond kitchen scraps

6:43 PM EDT, March 14, 2013

Compost should go beyond kitchen scraps

I want to start a compost pile, but I'm worried that kitchen scraps will attract animals from the woods nearby. Any thoughts?

Time is right for pruning trees

12:15 PM EST, March 7, 2013

Garden Q&A

Time is right for pruning trees

My trees look ratty. Can I prune now before the leaves come out? Should I put that black gunk on the cuts? I've never done this before.

Soil pH is pitch-perfect for any plant

6:11 PM EST, February 21, 2013

Soil pH is pitch-perfect for any plant

The soil test on my garden says the pH is 6.7. I need to find out what plants grow in that pH.

Weeds in winter are not uncommon

7:05 PM EST, February 14, 2013

Maryland Garden Q&A

Weeds in winter are not uncommon

On a nice winter day, I took a stroll and found my garden covered with weeds. This garden was bare soil last fall when I put it to bed. Not a weed in sight. Now it's a blanket of bright green flourishing weeds! How can that be?

Vines may vex, but not all are harmful

11:35 PM EST, February 4, 2013

Vines may vex, but not all are harmful

There seem to be an awful lot of vines on the trees in our area. We're having a community meeting to discuss it. What should we do about them?

Amaryllis can bloom again in time for spring

4:57 PM EST, January 30, 2013

Amaryllis can bloom again in time for spring

What do I do with the stalk on my amaryllis, now that the flowers are gone? Will it flower again?

Damaged blackberries are still edible

1:59 PM EDT, August 8, 2012

Damaged blackberries are still edible

My blackberries had some brown parts on the berries early in the season, but that seems to have gone away. Now I'm having trouble with those little berry "balls" turning white.

No late blight seen in Maryland tomatoes – so far

6:03 PM EDT, June 21, 2012

No late blight seen in Maryland tomatoes – so far

Is late blight going to attack tomatoes this year? I've heard rumors. How can I tell if I'm seeing late blight or early blight?

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