Patches of my lawn die off every winter. What's going on, and what can I do about it?
Your photo (sent through our Web site) of a dense, light tan stand of dead blades appears to be the weed called nimblewill. The roots of this perennial grass are still alive. In spring, its new shoots will be slightly gray-green compared with ordinary lawn fescue. There is no herbicide available to homeowners that selectively kills nimblewill without damaging the surrounding turf. Eliminate nimblewill patches with a total vegetation killer such as glyphosate or smothering layers of newspaper or plastic. Then reseed. If infestation is extensive, the entire lawn may need to be renovated. (We have free publications for seeding and renovating lawns.) Nimblewill spreads by stolons and seeds, so try to stay on top of it.
Along the side of the highway I drive, I see shrubs about 1- to 1 1/2 -feet high loaded with red berries. The branches are bare of leaves. Could you please tell me what they are?
The flashy berries of deciduous hollies are knockouts in the winter landscape. Two Maryland native deciduous hollies are Ilex verticillata, called winterberry holly, and Ilex decidua, known as possumhaw. There are any hybrids of Ilex verticillata and the Japanese winterberry Ilex serrata, for example 'Sparkleberry'. Chances are, the plants you see are one of the above, though eventually most varieties will grow much taller. Berry set requires male and female plants for pollination.
When placing your vegetable seed order this winter, select cultivars that have resistance to the diseases that cause you the most trouble each year.
Check fertilizer and grass and birdseed bags in your shed or garage for signs of mice damage. Seal up seeds and fertilizers in containers with tight lids.
Jon Traunfeld, regional specialist, and Ellen Nibali, horticulture consultant, work at the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension's Home and Garden Information Center. The center offers Maryland residents free gardening information and answers to plant and pest questions. Call the center's "hotline" at 800-342-2507 (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-1 p.m.) or e-mail questions to www.hgic.umd.edu. (You can also download or order publications and diagnose plant problems online).