Maryland Grows

Spotted Lanternfly Moves Into New Areas This Year

spotted lanternflies

Adult and 4th Instar Juvenile Spotted Lanternflies. Photo: Richard Gardner,

Spotted Lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) arrived in Maryland last year. These invasive insects are being controlled now in 15 sites in Cecil County and several in Harford County. The Maryland Department of Agriculture has expanded its survey sites along the Pennsylvania and Delaware borders to monitor for this pest. They also are surveying in Washington County since Route 81 goes through there. A Spotted Lanternfly infestation was found along Route 81 in Winchester, Virginia.

The map below shows (in blue) where state quarantines for Spotted Lanternfly are in effect in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and Virginia. Permits are required for any commercial or university vehicles doing business in the quarantine zone or passing through quarantine areas. Here is a link to the Pennsylvania permit page. Maryland has reciprocity with Pennsylvania for permits.

map showing spotted lanternfly distribution

This is a potentially very devastating pest that has over 70 host plants including vegetables, garden plants, many trees, and especially invasive Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima) which it may need to feed on to complete its life cycle. Lanternfly adults are very active now and are in the process of laying eggs. Please be vigilant and report any sightings to the Maryland Department of Agriculture at

adult spotted lanternflies and an egg mass

Adult Spotted Lanternflies and an Egg Mass. Photo: Richard Gardner,

For the latest information, check out Penn State Extension’s website on Spotted Lanternfly. They are the leader in research on this pest and have excellent information, photos, and videos.

By Mary Kay Malinoski, Extension Specialist, University of Maryland Extension, Home & Garden Information Center

Unique Garden that Grows Plants, Families & Friendships

On morning runs through the neighborhood I began noticing a unique home garden. It encompassed a large part of the backyard and it seemed like a new bed or structure was always popping up. I wanted a closer look. I had planned to ring the doorbell to meet the gardeners and learn more about this intriguing garden. Instead, I had the good luck to meet Sy Ahmad while he was in his garden and I was jogging by. I made two subsequent visits and left awe-struck each time by the lovely and thoughtful integration of spaces for gardening, cooking, eating, and relaxing.

This captivating garden is always changing and wherever you look there is some interesting feature to capture your eye and fire your imagination. I am amazed that the garden is only four years in the making and that Sy and his family are not seasoned gardeners or builders. They learned much of what they’ve created from web content, especially videos. Sy kindly agreed to this interview to share his family’s experience and inspiring garden!

Elevated wood containers and raised beds.

Looking down from garden entrance. The new, elevated wood containers on the left will be filled next spring with climbing and vining plants. Photo credit: Sy Ahmad

Photo of horizontal planter

Vertical plants and horizontal planters intersect throughout the garden. Polypropylene netting excludes deer. Photo credit: Sy Ahmad

Q: Why and when did you start your garden? What did you envision?

We started about 4 years ago in 2014, and we always wanted to build something big on our own; our own creation.

Q: Is it a family endeavor?

It actually started as a father and son project then turned into a 3 generation father, son, and grandson project.

Photo showing Malabar spinach climbing vertical structure

Malabar spinach climbs one of the vertical structures that includes a narrow horizontal bed half-way up. Photo credit: Jon Traunfeld, UME

Photo of garden gathering spot.

Gathering spot with terraced beds creates a flowing design that best utilizes sloped land.
Photo credit: Sy Ahmad

Q: Your garden is visible from a major road and is striking in its size and appearance. What responses have you had from community members?

Some friends actually thought we were building a chicken coop when we started. Our neighbors do admire it and come by often to pick up veggies, but others driving by don’t normally stop by.

Q: What advice do you have for gardeners who are just starting out?

Start small of course, and put up a fence that will keep out deer and last for the long term. Then grow and add on as time goes by.

Photo of rainwater collector.

Plastic cistern collects rainwater from roof for use in garden. Photo credit: Jon Traunfeld, UME

Q: What type of growing media do you fill your raised beds with?

We use a mixture of materials which consist of 1 part compost, 1 part peat moss, and 1 part vermiculite.

Q: Tell us about some of the crops you especially like to grow and think other gardeners should know about.

We grow many herbs, which can be quite useful in the kitchen, such as, mint, cilantro, basil, rosemary, parsley and more. Vegetables such as butternut squash, various types of tomatoes, Swiss chard, and even flowers such as zinnia.

Photo of brick oven.

Home-built brick oven fired up for guests. Photo credit: Sy Ahmad

Photo of pizza.

Home-made brick oven pizza with home-grown arugula. Does it get any better than that? Photo credit: Sy Ahmad

Photo of evening in the garden.

Night lights turn the garden into a special evening social space
Photo credit: Sy Ahmad


By Jon Traunfeld, Extension Specialist


How to Pick and Keep the Perfect Pumpkin – Featured Video

Searching for a pumpkin for the Halloween season?  Watch this video from NC State Extension about picking and storing pumpkins.

Learn more about pumpkin and winter squash at the HGIC website.


The green tomato dilemma; or, will this fruit get any riper?

I was reminded on social media this morning of an article published back in June by John Porter on the Garden Professors blog. It’s about which fruits (some of which are vegetables in a culinary sense) continue to ripen after being harvested, and which don’t. Using more scientific words, which are climacteric and which are non-climacteric. There’s a useful list — bookmark it!


Unripe Siberian kiwis in May

I referred to that list this summer to confirm that kiwis are among the fruits that will continue to ripen once picked. I have three Siberian kiwi plants (Actinidia kolomikta), two female and one male, and the females have been producing their tiny little fruits fairly bountifully. The problem with these kiwis, though, is that they don’t all ripen at once, and when they do ripen, the fruits tend to go from hard to soft quickly and then fall off. I’ve taken to checking the relative softness whenever I pass under the arbor during fruiting season, plucking off the ripe ones and popping them into my mouth.

So I thought, hm, what if I pick all the fruits once some have started ripening, and let them finish indoors? And, as indicated by kiwi’s climacteric status, it worked. Sort of. I have to say that the indoor-ripened fruits just weren’t as tasty. They’d be okay for jam, though, so perhaps next year that’s what I’ll do.

So what does this have to do with the tomatoes in the title? Read More

October Tips and Tasks

Normal fall needle yellowing on white pine

Normal fall needle yellowing on white pine

  • Fall coloration on white pines happens every fall but in some years it is more noticeable. The inner needles yellow and drop off. This can also occur on rhododendrons and other evergreen shrubs. This is normal for this time of year.
  • Flower buds are forming or are already formed on spring-flowering shrubs. To prevent reducing next year’s bloom, don’t prune spring-flowering shrubs like azaleas and rhododendrons until after they bloom next spring.
  • Nursery stock trees and shrubs can be planted until the ground freezes. Carefully examine trees and shrubs prior to purchase to assess quality. With balled and burlap stock cut the twine around the ball and cut away the nylon or burlap wrapping.
  • Daffodil bulbs, alliums and other spring-flowering bulbs can be planted now. Plant them in a sunny spot, in well-drained soil. Tulip bulbs should be planted from mid-October through November to prevent them from sprouting prematurely.
  • Black rat snakes may still be hatching in October. These harmless baby snakes are not black at hatching but are a light gray with dark brown rectangular markings down the back.
  • Many different spiders like jumping spiders, yellow house spiders, wolf spiders may enter homes. They can wander indoors through or around windows, doors, and cracks. Caulk cracks and tighten up around doors and windows, especially those at ground level. Most spiders are shy and harmless to humans. Normally, they will not attempt to bite unless accidentally trapped or held. They are beneficial by feeding on nuisance insects. Killing of spiders should be avoided, if possible.
Wolf Spider

Wolf spider
Photo: Lesley Ingram,

Why Are So Many Oak Trees Dying This Year?

dead oak tree

Rapid decline of an oak tree in an area with a restricted root zone. Photo: D.L. Clement, University of Maryland Extension

This season the Home and Garden Information Center has received a tremendous number of questions on rapid browning and death of many of our oak trees in urban landscapes and forest situations.  Even though it would be convenient to point to a single reason for this dieback it is most likely a combination of weather, disease, and insect factors.  

A logical starting place to look for an explanation would be the often-overlooked gradual health decline of our trees due to old age, restricted root zones, soil compaction in work zones, old trunk wounds, storm damage, poor pruning, urban stress such as reflected heat and drought, and opportunistic diseases and insects. These decline factors can extend over many years, leaving trees to try and cope with less than ideal growing conditions.

Last season these conditions were further worsened by the excessive rainfall that continued into this spring which resulted in standing water at many locations that had low spots, compacted soil, or water collection points. Flooded soils and saturated root zones further weakened trees by allowing root pathogens such as Phytophthora a chance to reduce the overall number of healthy roots. 

area of flooding near oak trees

Flooding near oak trees, Spring 2019. Photo: D.L. Clement, University of Maryland Extension

dead oak tree

Dying oaks in the same location as above, Fall 2019. Photo: D.L. Clement, University of Maryland Extension

In general, red, black, chestnut and white oaks don’t tolerate poorly drained soils. Trees can tolerate some reduction in root health, as long as temperatures remain cool, water demands aren’t high, and adequate time is allowed for root regeneration. As a root system loses the ability to support the tree’s water needs, dieback will occur especially in the upper branches.  

When the high summer temperatures began this season in mid-July and the low rainfall extended into this fall these conditions accelerated the loss of tree vigor and resulted in sudden browning of tree leaves and canopy dieback. Compromised tree health often allows pathogens such Armillaria and Hypoxylon to invade, which further accelerates dieback and death. In addition, opportunistic insects such as Ambrosia Beetles and Two-lined Chestnut Borer, will attack tree trunks and continue tree demise.  

frass on oak from ambrosia beetles

Evidence of a boring insect infestation. Photo: D.L. Clement, University of Maryland Extension

There are a few positive steps that may alleviate some tree stress. It is very difficult to reverse decline in stressed oaks so select trees that still have green foliage and irrigate near their bases during this period of high drought stress. Even minimal amounts of water can help recovery and prevent drought stress before winter dormancy. Practices that open up compacted soils to increase drainage and raise soil oxygen levels (e.g., vertical mulching) will often help as well.  

As we continue to receive information about dying oaks across the state, we still have many unanswered questions. We will continue to collect data on tree species, age, and pest occurrence, in coordination with other agencies across Maryland.

By Dr. David L. Clement, Principal Agent, University of Maryland Extension, Home & Garden Information Center and Dr. Karen Rane, Director, University of Maryland Plant Diagnostic Laboratory

Q&A: What is this white growth on my cherry laurel shrub?

white prunicola scale on cherry laurel

An infestation of white prunicola scale on cherry laurel. Photo: University of Maryland Extension

Q: We have cherry laurel shrubs that were growing very well for a few years. Yesterday, I noticed some of the leaves on one side of a laurel were brown. When I looked closer, I found that all of the branches inside were covered with a white substance. What is it? What can I do about it?

Answer: The white substance on the branches is an infestation of white prunicola scale. Scales are very tiny insects that feed on plant sap. Their feeding leads to leaf yellowing, browning, and eventual dieback of branches.

Scale insects are challenging to manage. The waxy white substance they produce provides a form of protection from desiccation and predators. They produce three generations each year, so if a population is not controlled all at once, they can continue to reproduce and be a persistent problem.

When there is a heavy infestation of white prunicola scale and dieback is severe, it may be best to remove the shrub altogether rather than try to treat it. Depending on where the infestation is located, you may be able to prune out branches selectively and discard them.

Fertilized female scales overwinter on the bark of the branches, so another step in management is to apply a dormant rate of horticultural oil during the dormant season (when deciduous plants have lost their leaves). You can first use a soft-bristled brush to scrub off the scale patches gently. Then apply the horticultural oil.

white prunicola scale

White prunicola scale covering (female) and eggs. Photo: Brian Kunkel, University of Delaware,

If female scales remain on the shrub, juveniles (called “crawlers”) will emerge in the spring. Crawler periods vary from year to year depending on temperatures. For this species, new generations may be out in May, mid-July to mid-August, and September.

The tiny juvenile crawlers are salmon-colored. You can place a simple trap to detect their activity; wrap a piece of double-sided tape around a few branches. When you see crawlers stuck to the tape, that is the ideal time to apply horticultural oil. Oil spray is the least harmful to beneficial insects such as ladybird beetles, which you want to keep in your landscape because they help tamp down on other pests.

White prunicola scale is a fairly common problem on cherry laurels. Residents who have these shrubs should check them periodically for leaf yellowing and white spots on lower branches. Scales are easier to manage if you catch them early.

By Christa K. Carignan, Maryland Certified Professional Horticulturist, Coordinator, University of Maryland Extension Home & Garden Information Center

Have a plant or insect question? University of Maryland Extension’s experts have answers! Send your questions and photos to Ask an Expert.