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Lifestyle Home & Garden

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?

Row cover can remain on string beans through the growing season because string beans do not need insect cross-pollination in order to produce a crop. Row cover can also be left on the following crops from planting through harvest: tomato, pepper, pea, cabbage and the rest of the cabbage family including broccoli and radish, lettuce and other leafy greens, spinach, beet, Swiss chard, onion, garlic, potato and sweet potato, carrot, and Southern pea.

I saw a snake with a triangular head in my yard. Does that mean it's poisonous?

No, not by itself. Look at its eyes instead. If the eye pupil is round like a humans, the snake is not poisonous. There are only two poisonous snakes in Maryland, timber rattlesnake and copperhead, and they have vertical pupils, like a cat in daylight. They are pit vipers and also have "pit," a heat-sensing hole on each side of their head between the nostril and eye, but that is harder to see. The vast majority of Maryland snakes are harmless and beneficial. Several have triangular heads. Even those without triangular heads, when frightened, often make their heads triangular by widening their jaws. The copperhead and timber rattlesnake also have triangular heads. Some people believe that a patterned snake equals a poisonous snake. This, too, is not true. Some of our most common snakes have patterns or, like the rat snake, have patterns when they are juveniles. See our online pub on snakes: http://extension.umd.edu/sites/default/files/_images/programs/hgic/Publications/HG64_Snakes.pdf.

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 the website at extension.umd.edu/hgic.

Plant of the Week

Plantain-leaved Pussytoes

Antennaria plantaginifolia

When faced with difficult dry poor soils, consider pussytoes. There are several species of this native perennial ground cover, whose fuzzy white flower heads resemble the pads on a cat's paw. It is primarily grown for its semi-evergreen gray-green foliage rather than its spring flowers. The ground-hugging leaves look like tiny plantain, about 4 inches high and 2 inches across. Pussytoes grow in a wide variety of habitats such as rock gardens, slopes, rock walls and between stepping stones. It slowly colonizes into tight patches, happiest in full to part sun and well drained soils. Once established, pussytoes are drought tolerant. Deer and rabbits tend to leave it alone. Flowers attract early season pollinators, and it is a larval host plant for the American Lady butterfly. —Marian Hengemihle

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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