Garden Q&A: Keep eye out for new invasive pest

My relatives said I should not bring firewood from Pennsylvania when we come home after the holidays. Is there a quarantine?

A new invasive pest, the spotted lanternfly, is just over the line in Pennsylvania and has now been found in Delaware and New York. All Marylanders need to be on the lookout for this pest that infests crops, such as grape and fruit trees, plus forest and landscape trees. It compensates for mediocre flying by being a dangerous hitchhiker via its eggs. It will lay eggs just about anywhere! Not only on trees and firewood, but on car tires, trailers, houses — anything dark. It lays egg clusters under felty coverings that look similar to those of gypsy moths except that they are gray, not tan, and somewhat shiny. Check firewood super-carefully. Homeowners near infested areas need to patrol tree trunks and elsewhere. Search “spotted lanternfly” on the HGIC website.

My New Year’s resolution is to aim for a yard at least 50 percent native plants, but I don’t want my yard to look weird compared to my neighbors’. Anything special I should do? Since they’re native, they should all be adapted here, right?

The same cardinal rule applies for all plants: Match the plant to the site. Native plants are no more invincible than others. Some evolved in cool mountains, others in the sandy, warm Eastern Shore. Match your choices to your light, soil drainage and type, and moisture. Encourage your local nursery to stock a good selection. Plants like to grow with other plants, which also makes for normal landscape beds. Aim for continuous natural areas, linking your beds or joining your neighbor’s, since natural areas broken into tiny patches are one of the biggest roadblocks to healthy environments. Lawn grass is not native, so reduce lawn where practical. If your place is large enough, consider letting areas go natural. Have fun!

University of Maryland Extension’s Home and Garden Information Center offers free gardening and pest information at extension.umd.edu/hgic. Click “Ask Maryland’s Gardening Experts” to send questions and photos.

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