Pull and mow hairy bittercress promptly or it will come back on a grander scale

For The Baltimore Sun

We’re swamped with a new weed this year. It started with round rosettes of leaves with white flowers on stems, but it is everywhere in beds and lawn. Now the flower stems have gotten taller and flowers are turning into long pointy pods. What do I do to stop this?

Pull and mow your hairy bittercress immediately, because those slim seed capsules replacing the flowers can produce almost 2000 seeds per plant and explode when ripe, rocketing outwards 8 feet and guaranteeing a repeat infestation next year on an even grander scale.

Hairy bittercress is a winter annual that began as a tiny plant last fall. It has little root and is simple to pull. If seeds are already ripe, shove the top of the plant directly into a bag to prevent seed propulsion. Hairy bittercress stragglers will sprout all summer. Often these late ones are much smaller than the robust spring crop, so keep a sharp lookout. Search ‘hairy bittercress’ on the University of Maryland Extension’s Home and Garden Information Center website.

Hairy bittercress leaves are edible (in the cabbage family) and can impress foodie friends as a new salad green.

I am a complete garden novice. This spring I dug in compost to make a garden. I planted radish seed because I read they were easy. Something like rubbery brown bubbles are erupting beside my green radish babies. Are these the radishes or something else? Should be happy or terrified?

Little brown mushrooms — you see caps visible at soil level — can grow in the organic matter of your soil. Cloudy, wet weather encourages this growth. These harmless fungal fruiting bodies can be swept away. Make sure that your garden is draining well. Be sure the seedlings do not become too crowded. They may need thinning. You can use scissors to cut out some of the plants, so that individual plants are spaced two to four inches apart. This creates less competition between plants and allows them to reach good size. Otherwise you’ll get all foliage and virtually no radish! Our website has loads of information on vegetable garden for newbies.

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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