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A shady garden is perfect for some fruits and vegetables

Do any vegetables grow in shade? How about fruit?

Not in dense shade. But many fruits and vegetables can grow well in partial shade. When planning your garden, keep in mind that noon and afternoon sun are more intense than morning sun. A location receiving three to four hours of sunlight is a good candidate for: broccoli rabe, kale, cabbage, chard, turnips, spinach, arugula, all Asian greens, radishes, peas, leaf lettuce and beets. You'll notice that many of these are leafy vegetables. Carrots, onions, parsnips, cucumber and celery need only five hours of sun. Some vegetables, such as pole beans, tomatoes and peppers, actually benefit from a little late-afternoon shade when summer sun gets intense. Rhubarb and horseradish are perennial crop options that can handle partial shade. Small fruits such as blackberries, blueberries and strawberries will tolerate some shade and still produce a crop.

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I'm pretty sure that I have an infestation of viburnum leaf beetle. My arrowwood viburnum have been defoliated two years in a row and my blackhaw viburnum was defoliated last year. I'll look for egg masses this spring. What are insecticides for this pest?

It's likely you do have this new non-native invasive insect. Viburnum leaf beetle (VLB) has been spreading from New York for years. It is currently in Garrett County. Please send the Home and Garden Information Center digital photos this spring for a positive identification. Both the larval and adult stages decimate viburnums, especially native ones. The first and best line of defense is pruning of twigs with rows of VLB egg masses. Now is the time to do this, while leaves are off for good visibility and before eggs hatch in the spring. After pruning, here are some of the least toxic options: A 4 percent dormant oil spray will kill most eggs. Young larvae can be killed by spraying leaf undersides with insecticidal soap or Spinosad, but you must be extremely thorough. Tanglefoot insect barrier can be applied to shrub stems to trap larvae as they travel down to the soil to turn into adults. It's best to attack attack VLB before they are adults, but you can spray the mature ones with Spinosad. Don't be tempted to use a neonicotinoid drench, because pollinators can be harmed when these pesticides spread to viburnum flowers and pollen.

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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 24/7.

Plant of the week

Virginia sweetspire, itea

Itea virginica

Being native and low is prize enough, but Virginia sweetspire brings so much more in a shrub. Winter stems with tints of red-purple leaf out with classic summer foliage. June brings cascades of lightly fragrant blooms in long racemes. Planted in mass or allowed to sucker naturally, Virginia sweetspires in full bloom can be "staggeringly beautiful" according to horticulturist Michael Dirr. Finally, it adds good fall leaf color, from yellow to reds and purples. Highly versatile, Virginia sweetspire grows in full sun to shade, average to wet (even flooded) soils, and in clay, loan or sand. Full sun encourages a lower, fuller habit. Virginia sweetspire in the wild reaches 3-5 feet, even up to 10 feet, depending on sun and moisture. It's great for naturalizing. Some cultivars offer more compact growth.

—Ellen Nibali

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