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Lifestyle Home & Garden

Rain gardens can help water absorb into soil

My neighbor is installing a rain garden. Won't that breed mosquitoes? Isn't it better for rain to run off quickly?

Water must sit, unmoving, for three days for mosquitoes to have time to reproduce there. A rain garden empties before then, absorbing rainwater into the permeable soil, down to the roots of water-loving plants. Yes, rainwater must drain away from a home, but slowly is the operative word. Fast run-off can't be absorbed by your lawn or by your plants' roots, meaning the same plants may still need to be watered. Fast-moving stormwater also gathers speed and force as it joins rain from other sources. As it rushes on, velocity and volume build up, scouring streams and waterways of animal and plant life and eroding water beds.

I found a black beetle in my bathroom. It's not a cockroach. The back end has long ridges running down it. Do I need an exterminator?

Ground beetles suffer from a forgettable name, but they are great little beneficial insects that accidentally wander into a house occasionally. You can escort your ground beetle outside to improve your landscape. Many ground beetle species are predators that have a wide diet, including fly maggots, caterpillars, grubs, aphids, weevils, mites, even slugs. Other species feed on both prey and plant material such as weed seeds. The 40,000 species found all over the world range from 1/8 inchto over 1 inch in size. No need for an exterminator.

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 extension.umd.edu/hgic.

Plant of the week

Okra

Abelmoschus esculentus

Recognize that beautiful flower? Hint: think gumbo. It's okra, which may be an acquired taste, but once you're used to it, there is nothing like it. Nutritionally, okra is a good source of vitamins B and C, magnesium and fiber. Direct seed okra in a sunny garden. Later, thin to 12 inches between plants. Okra can grow up to 5 feet, so give it room. When plants are 24 inches tall, pinch off the growing points to increase productivity. Okra is a heavy nitrogen feeder and needs side dressing with fertilizer at least once during the growing season. Be sure to water during dry periods. Okra plants produce well into fall, guaranteeing a plentiful supply of okra for pickling, frying and adding to jambalaya. Learn more at extension.umd.edu/learn/vegetable-profiles-okra.

—Lewis Shell

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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