All my evergreens and window sills were covered with spider webs, and I removed them with water or by hand. This went on almost all summer. Now most of the plants are in poor health, with the insides devoid of any life. What happened? What can I do that won't destroy a limited income?

Water, water, water. Water is one of the most common determining factors between life and death. The spider webs you've seen are normally washed away by rain, but during drought, webs remain longer. Spiders are not harmful to plants. The most likely reason your plants browned out was this year's weather pattern. Cool, damp weather in spring promoted diseases. Drought conditions in parts of spring and late summer have stressed many plants. It is critical that you ensure your plants do not go into winter in dry soil. Be aware of soil moisture levels until the ground freezes.


Something is eating my kale transplants down to the stalk. Under the leaf I found white flies, but I've never seen white flies eat a plant like this. What's going on?

The small holes are made by flea beetles; the medium and large holes (and defoliation) are caused by one or more caterpillar species. Late in the growing season, many pests are well established in the garden. Use row cover over your kale as soon as you plant it to pre-empt these pests. You can read more about flea beetles and caterpillars and ways to control them at the Home and Garden Information Center website's Grow It Eat It section.

Digging deeper

Wavyleaf basketgrass

Oplismenus hirtellus ssp. undulatifolius

With seeds so sticky they adhere to rubber boots, deer, dogs and anything else, this invasive shade plant spreads like wildfire, smothering native plants on the forest floor that wildlife need. In a few short years, it has swallowed hundreds of acres of Maryland parks and private land. A drought-tolerant trailing perennial, it also roots where stem nodes touch soil. It's easy to scout, because its distinctive wavy leaves stay green all summer then turn bright yellow in fall. Keep an extra-sharp lookout now, as seed stems are appearing. Once seeds develop, heavily infested areas cannot be entered for eradication because it is impossible to exit without spreading seeds. Spray, or pull, bag and seal — and feel good about combating this bully of a plant.

Ellen Nibali