Make sure pesticides don't harm helpful pollinators

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

Some pesticides, such as horticultural oil or soap, are effective and have low impact on beneficial insects. Call the Home and Garden Information Center for tips on timing and appropriate applications. Neem and Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) pose very low risk to honeybees, spinosad is moderately toxic to bees, and pyrethrin — though also a botanical insecticide — is very toxic. Never use strong pesticides when plants are in bloom and pollinators would contact toxin-laden pollen and flowers. Be aware that fungicides can also be lethal to pollinators. Spray in the early morning or early evening to reduce honeybee exposure. Some plants are pollinated by wind, not insects, so you don't have to worry about pesticides with them. Be extremely cautious with neonicotinoid insecticides (e.g. imidacloprid), because they translocate into flowers and pollen (including clover in lawns) for long periods of time. And be sure to explore other means of pest control, such as floating row cover, handpicking, traps, etc.

What minerals are usually low or deficient in Maryland soils?

There is no definitive answer for this, as there is a wide variety of soil types in Maryland, and sandy soils, for instance, will leach out nutrients faster than loam or clay soils do. Plus, your soil may have plenty of every nutrient imaginable but, if the pH is too low or too high, your plants can't access those nutrients. Your best bet is to have a soil test done. It will report nutrients levels as well as the pH and give recommendations. Go to the Home and Garden Infomation Center website for a list of regional soil testing labs where you can send a soil sample.

University of Maryland Extension's Home and Garden Information Center offers free gardening and pest information. Call 800-342-2507 or send a question to its website at

Plant of the week


Fragaria x ananassa

Everyone has special strawberry memories or recipes. Strawberries are easy to grow, and Maryland's climate is ideal for growing them, so join the club! Grow them in containers or in the ground. Choose a sunny location with organically enriched, well-drained soil (strawberries do not like wet feet). If your soil site is wet, you can build a raised bed. Select either a "June bearing" or "day neutral" (everbearing) type — both do well but produce at different times. (The name everbearing is somewhat misleading, since this type usually takes a break in berrying from June to late August.) Both types are managed differently. To choose one, read about them on the Home and Garden Information Center's website in the small fruit section. The "Getting Started with Small Fruit" publication will help you select and care for new plants.

— Lewis Shell

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