Did I hear about a new boxwood disease? I want to plant boxwood this year, because deer don't eat it. What do you think?
Boxwood boasts glossy evergreen leaves, a sedate growth habit that doesn't demand constant pruning, and deer actually leave it alone. But, yes, boxwood blight was found last year in Virginia, North Carolina, Massachusetts, and in one nursery in Maryland. We don't know how it got here from Europe, where it has devastated boxwood, but it's a good reminder why travelers should not bring home even a dry sprig of plant material. The spores of this fungus survive on dead leaves and can be spread by contaminated pots or vehicles transporting plants. We recommend that you buy only boxwood grown locally or start your own from cuttings. Boxwood is so easy to propagate, it's almost just a matter of sticking a bunch of cuttings into moist ground. (Call us for details.) Meanwhile, boxwood owners can scout for long black streaks on green stems, a unique symptom of the disease, along with spotted leaves and dieback. Notify HGIC immediately.
My lawn is a mass of weeds. Can I eat the dandelions since, obviously, I never applied an herbicide?
Eat your lawn? Sure. You can "harvest" highly nutritious dandelions, chickweed (tastes like spinach), plantain, purslane, and many other weeds. Be sure you can identify the edible weed and learn when they are best to eat. They can be used fresh in salads or sandwiches or cooked. Eating weeds is not a good idea, however, where soil is high in lead or pets use it to relieve themselves. In the latter case, you may be able to eat weeds in flower or shrub beds.
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 hgic.umd.edu.
Plant of the week Black raspberry
Surprised to see bright lavender streaks in a winter landscape? These are black raspberry plants, a reminder of tasty days to come. Soon they will leaf out, bloom, and be juicy black raspberries ready for picking long before other brambles produce berries. Black raspberries are native and full of healthy nutrients. Plant in spring or one month before the first fall frost (mid to late September). Locate them where they will get full sun in deep loamy soil. A black raspberry plant consists of a rooted crown which produces upright canes. The canes get extremely long and should be kept pruned back to about 30" to encourage side shoots where the berries will form during the cane's second summer. After each cane fruits, it dies, but new canes are already coming up to replace it. For recommended varieties, see our website article: HG68: Getting Started with Small Fruit. —Ellen Nibali