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Garden Q&A: On increasing indoor humidity for plants and removing a bench from a tree

Use a humidity tray to boost indoor humidity for house plants.
Use a humidity tray to boost indoor humidity for house plants. (Miri Talabac/For The Baltimore Sun)

I may be going a bit overboard adding indoor plants, thanks to Covid. How can I give them more humidity? They are under lights, and I can’t enclose them all inside terrariums. I’m in an apartment.

Humidifiers attached to forced hot air and other heating systems or stand-alone humidifiers help alleviate dry plants (and dry skin), but some plants like more humidity than humans. Humidity trays are a good option for your plants.

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Obtain stiff, sturdy, shallow trays. One proven method uses a light diffuser grid cut to fit the tray, topped with a piece of felt-like capillary matting with the ends tucked under the grid. Another piece of grid goes on top. When watering, drainage is caught by the tray. Matting soaks it up and, as water evaporates, it raises the humidity around the plants. The top grid layer keeps soil from becoming oversaturated by holding pots above water.

To clean, throw matting into the wash and scrub off the crate. Occasionally you may find that spores of houseplants, such as ferns, successfully germinate on the matting.

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Previous owners put a metal bench around our now-mature silver maple. Because the tree grew over time, the bench is now embedded into the exposed roots and trunk of the tree. The tree is alive and healthy. Is there a trusted person I can hire to remove this bench? I suspect strong power tools are needed. We tried a hand saw with no success. We want to save the tree.

Contact a certified arborist. They are knowledgeable in all aspects of tree care and should be consulted when evaluating the health and management of a tree.

The arborist will have tools to cut the bench out. To find a certified arborist near you, use the “Find An Arborist” tab on the International Society of Arboriculture website: treesaregood.org. The majority are associated with tree service companies.

In the event some bench pieces cannot be removed, remaining metal should not kill the tree provided it is small enough and not encircling the trunk.

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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 and photos.

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