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Smother the winter weeds that sprout in your garden before they explode in the spring. - Original Credit: For The Baltimore Sun
Smother the winter weeds that sprout in your garden before they explode in the spring. - Original Credit: For The Baltimore Sun (Ellen Nibali / HANDOUT)

These seedlings are popping up in my flower bed and under shrubs. Are these new flowers? If so, how do I keep them alive over the winter?

You don’t want to keep these alive. These are what’s known as “winter annual weeds.” We see primarily chickweed and hairy bittercress in your photo. Winter annual weeds germinate (sprout) in the fall and grow very little over the winter, taking advantage of milder days.

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It is enough for them to get established. When spring brings better growing conditions, they explode with growth. We are often taken by surprise, wondering where they came from so fast.

You probably don’t feel like weeding now. Throw enough leaves or mulch over them to block sunlight and smother them. For more help, search ‘winter annual weeds’ on the Home and Garden Information Center website.

My herb garden has exceptionally well-draining soil, yet mushrooms are sprouting. Why? I though mushrooms liked moist organic conditions. Is it safe to eat herbs near mushrooms?

Mushrooms are not a concern regarding the edibility of your herbs. Mushrooms are essentially the seed heads of fungi growing in the soil, hidden from view. Many soil-borne fungi feed on decaying plant parts and other detritus, recycling the nutrients for the soil food web. Your soil has some organic matter, possibly plant debris from overhead, such as leaves. Or, possibly decomposing old plant roots, which normally die and are replaced by new roots.

Simply harvest the herbs you wish to use and avoid the mushrooms. (I repeat: Don’t eat the mushrooms!)

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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