Maryland Grows

June Maryland Wildlife – The Garden Thyme Podcast

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Hello Listener, 

In this month episode we are speaking with Kerry Wixted, Education and Outreach Specialist for Maryland DNR about Maryland wildlife.   Did you know we have native rattle snake in Maryland?  Learn why possum are so useful to have in your garden?  What can you do to increase the wildlife value of your garden. 

Here is a link to the MDNR Wild Acres website

We also have our: 

  • Native Plant of the Month (Button Bush)  at ~ 26:10
  • Bug of the Month ( Manson Bee) at ~ 30:50
  • Garden Tips of the Month at ~ 36:25

We hope you enjoyed this month’s episode and will tune in next month for more garden tips. 

 If you have any garden-related questions please email us at  UMEGardenPodcast@gmail.com or look us up on Facebook.

Theme Song:  By Jason Inc

Get ready for Pollinator Week: Let’s play pollination bingo!

Here in Maryland, June is the month when it starts to get hot and we start seeing fireflies, but also when a lot of plants flower and a ton of insects are flying around! Also, June is when The Pollinator Partnership has declared National Pollinator Week to happen. And finally, June is also the month when kids (and adults) start to end school and may want to have some extra distractions. So, taking all of this together, it seems to me that June is the perfect month to invite you all to join me in doing The Ultimate Pollination Bingo!

Pollinator photo gallery by Christa Carignan, University of Maryland Extension

How does it work?

1- Download the bingo card. 

2- Print it or carry it on your electronic device.

3- Find some friends and/or family, and get out there and try to do a full card! 

4- When you’re done, share it with us through our social media channels, by taking a picture of your card (and you!), tagging us @UMDHGIC and using the hashtag #PollinatorWeek.

Happy June and let’s have some fun!

Note: many of the tasks in this bingo card relate to my previous posts, so feel free to go back to them and check them out if you don’t know how to do certain things! 😊 

pollinator week - June 21-27

By Anahí Espíndola, Assistant Professor, Department of Entomology, University of Maryland, College Park. See more posts by Anahí.

Anahí also writes an Extension Blog in Spanish! Check it out here, extensionesp.umd.edu, and please share and spread the word to your Spanish-speaking friends and colleagues in Maryland. ¡Bienvenidos a Extensión en Español!

Magi-Cicadas: exceeding decibel limits! Featured Video

In the morning, the drone of the cicada chorus precedes the harmony of the songbirds. The loudest of the three species, Magicicada cassinii, is one of the smallest and is all black. Their harmless, feeding results in cicada pee dropping from trees on your head! The damaging part of their life cycle is the egg-laying, pruning work. If you have baby trees and you have singing cicadas, you will need to protect young twigs NOW! If you don’t have singing cicadas then you don’t have to do anything to protect your trees.

More info on 17-year cicadas.

Joyce Browning Horticulturist, Master Gardener Coordinator Video credit: Bethany Evans Longwood Gardens Professional Gardener Program Alumni; CPH

Beach Books for Veggie Gardeners

All right, maybe not the beach. But as we exit spring and enter the “oh maybe I’d rather stay indoors in the AC” season, I’ve got some recently-published books that might encourage you to get out there and make your garden better (but you can read them inside on a hot day and count that as horticultural education). Want to learn how to identify and deal with pests? Want to know if there’s anything to this “companion planting” stuff? And what’s up with “regenerative gardening”—can your soil really feed your plants? Read on!

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Tomatocide: I’m guilty!

Guilty.

Yes, I, Bob Nixon, am guilty of the shocking crime of tomatocide.

I didn’t mean to do it—of course.  I’m a University of Maryland Master Gardener Emeritus.  I should have known better.   Yes, I should have.

Why did I do it—age, early-stage forgetfulness, or worse?

No, I’m only 80, the new 60, so age isn’t a factor, and please stop smiling. Forgetfulness?  Not really because when I go into the garage to get my weeding hoe or pruning shears, I usually—yes, usually—remember why I’m there.

But I did kill my tomato plants this year—lots of them.

They all started out beautifully, either from seeds I started in cups, or, later, replacements that I bought at the local hardware store and my favorite nursery.  Brandywine, Celebrity, Cherokee Purple, Better Boy, Favorita, and Five Star: they looked great when I set them out in my small veggie gardens that wrap around the top of our backyard hillside.

I had carefully prepared the beds, dug planting holes and sprinkled in a bit of fertilizer, carefully placed the plants, watered them, mulched them, and caged them.  They started to thrive, to reach for the sun.  What joy and contentment for a lifelong tomato grower.

And then I started to worry.  Tender young leaves curled under and sometimes twisted.  Plants stopped growing.

Herbicide drift?  Too much water?  Some insect or mite problem?  Some strange new tomato virus?  

I researched at the Home & Garden Information Center and other online websites and analyzed my situation.  Logical conclusion: herbicide drift. But I knew of no neighbor using 2,4-D or other herbicides.

So, I replaced the most severely damaged plants—all of which I had started from seed—with the store-bought ones.  And relaxed and watched my new plants grow. And then the replacements started to curl and twist.  

Just what is going on, I asked myself?  I went online and fired off my question to “Ask an Expert” at the Home & Garden Information Center. 

An expert replied: “The downward curling and twisting sounds like phenoxy (growth regulator) herbicide injury…. The injury is often random.  A few plants affected in one row.  Plants do not recover.  2,4-D drift can be insidious!  There’s still a chance that some businesses have tomato plants.”  The ellipsis included this link: Herbicide Damage on Vegetables.

I responded: “Thank you… for confirming my worst frustration—probably 2,4-D drift.  And I could have added in my question that some early leaves on a nearby row of zucchini were similarly ‘stunted,’ but those plants seem to be putting out new leaves….  All is not lost—just delayed—as when I saw the problem developing I started six new cups of seeds, and those plants are about two inches tall and I’m looking forward to transplanting them later this week.”

When transplanting day came yet again, I went about pulling out the damaged plants and suddenly had a shocking thought.  This is an herbicide drift problem, and no one is using herbicide in the neighborhood.  Could I be causing the problem?  What about that bag of fertilizer that I have been using—the one a neighbor gave me when he moved away last year?  I had seen the N-P-K figures and had skimmed over all the big print on the bag.

But did I read everything?  I almost ran to the garage and looked at the front of the bag—and it gave no hint of herbicide.  But on the back, in small print at the bottom, a box eventually got around to the point that the fertilizer contained 2,4-D, mecoprop, and dicamba, three herbicides.

Oh, no!  I was shocked!  I had been sprinkling death pellets into my tomato-planting holes all spring.  Herbicide drift?  No, it was herbicide intake through each tomato’s root system.

A green plant in a garden

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Herbicides in the fertilizer product caused new leaves on my tomato plants to be small, curled and twisted.

I am embarrassed, of course.  One rule every Master Gardener learns during initial training classes is “Read the label.”

I thought I had read the label—but I hadn’t read the fine print—just the big stuff.

And my tomato plants curled and twisted and ended up in the trash bucket.

I confessed to my crime to the Expert at the Home & Garden Information Center and explained that I had tried to shovel out polluted soil from the planting areas and wondered how long the problem might persist.

“Helluva story, Bob,” the Expert replied.  “The three herbicides have been shown to break down within 60 days (dependent on sufficient soil temperature, moisture, and organic matter) so no worries for planting later this summer or next year.”

The good news is that my latest tomato transplants are nicely growing—but three weeks behind in the size they should have been.  But the fact remains that I was guilty of tomatocide.  I should have read the fine print.

And I have excellent advice for every gardener:  Read the Label—All of It!

-Bob Nixon

UME Master Gardener, Howard Co.

Weeds are a challenge, even in a raised bed garden

In the bottom two middle squares of my raised bed garden, the spinach and leaf lettuce is growing from last month, but now it appears like there are some unwanted plants as well — weeds! In just a few short weeks, our garden has been overtaken by weeds. The weed seeds came from the topsoil I purchased. Weeds are a problem when you have a garden of any size, unless you use new, sterile, soilless growing media each season. Knowing what you planted will really be important so you can be on the lookout for the seedlings, and remove just the weeds.

Seedling leaves (cotyledons) often look completely different from the first true leaves that come out later. One characteristic that can help you in figuring out if you have a weed or a plant you want to grow is by looking at the number of leaves that sprout from the seed. If the plant has one seedling leaf, it is called a monocot (monocotyledon). This includes plants like onions, corn, and grasses. If the plant has two seedling leaves at germination, it is called a dicot (dicotyledons) and includes plants like tomatoes, beans, potatoes, spinach, and lettuce. Dicots are sometimes referred to as broadleaf plants. Many times selective herbicides work on either monocots or dicots but not both types of plants; that’s what determines which plant will be killed by the herbicide or which will be resistant. Non-selective herbicides will kill both monocot and dicot plants.

Sometimes people get really upset when I call a plant a “weed.” Please remember that many plants can be designated as weeds. The simple definition is “a plant growing where it is not wanted.” So even though weeds can have desirable characteristics, when it is a plant growing where it is not wanted, it is a weed. Weeds compete for sunshine, water, space, and nutrients in the garden, and some can be hosts for diseases and pests.

As with most gardening tasks, addressing the problem early and often is the best advice. Being able to identify weeds when they are small is one of the skills that I continue to hone each growing season and it takes practice and time. Knowing what you planted and where you planted it is the first step in knowing what may or may not be growing. Virginia Tech has a nice identification guide that lets you answer questions about the specimen and points you to a possible answer.

I will be using mechanical control methods (hand pulling or a small hand shovel to remove the weeds) because it’s such a small area.   

In our commercial high tunnel operation, we use a physical barrier as our first line of defense in weed control. Wind can cause hardships with keeping landscape fabric held in place, but we use 6-8’’ long landscape pins to hold it down.

Here is information on managing weeds organically.

We have had some very chilly night temperatures which is not too uncommon here in the mountains. Our expected frost-free date is June 5th, so I’m looking forward to putting in some warm season vegetables in the coming weeks — tomatoes, peppers, green beans, and maybe a summer squash are on our list.

Weeded garden bed

By Ashley Bodkins, Senior Agent Associate and Master Gardener Coordinator, Garrett County, Maryland, edited by Christa Carignan, Coordinator, Home & Garden Information Center, University of Maryland Extension. See more posts by Ashley and Christa.

A gardener laments lessons hard won

If only I’d known.  How many times have we slapped our forehead at our gardening follies and mumbled that under our breath.  So today, I am paying homage to the lessons my garden has taught me.  

Soil is god. 

Healthy soil grows healthy plants.  So pay attention to your dirt, um, soil.  Feed it lots of organic matter:  compost, chipped leaves, grass clippings.  And be gentle with it.  Tilling destroys soil structure and harms the soil critters that make soil healthy.

Most bugs are good. 

Only one in ten insects is harmful. The rest are good guys that help control bad bugs.  And another thing.  The uglier the bug, the more beneficial it is.  Look up assassin bugs or cicada killer wasps.  Yikes.  

Assassin bug

Chemicals kill bugs good and bad. 

Most grab-and-go chemicals kill indiscriminately.  Do you really want to take out your allies? I think not. Choose less toxic organic products and do things like hand-picking and crop rotation to keep the bad boys at bay.

Right plant, right place. 

Placing plants where they can not only survive but thrive is smart.  Put a water-loving plant in hot, dry clay and it will die.  Guar-an-teed.  Find out what a plant needs and give it just that for great results.  Don’t tempt fate. 

Plant tags lie. 

Many plant tags have good information, but it goes only so far.  So, do a bit of research online or in a good gardening book to confirm what a plant needs as far as light, moisture, soil and space. 
My beautyberry is 4 feet wider and taller than its tag indicated.  

Respect frost dates. 

Yes, I know.  You want the first tomatoes on the block.  But if you plant them early and they get zapped, you have no tomatoes.  So wait to plant tender seedlings. Mid-May is good. Later is better if your area stays cooler longer.

Always lay garden rakes and pitchforks with the tines away and down. 

Enough said.  

Landscaping fabric is evil. 

Advertised as a weed block, this black devil mesh does nothing but give weeds something to sink their roots into.  Weeds grow both up and down through it.  You will spend half your life wrestling it out of your beds.  

Adopting sickly plants is a bad idea. 

There is a reason they look unwell.  Whether they have been watered too much or too little, baked or chilled, had too much or too little light, or beset by bugs or disease, avoid them.  Smart money is on the healthy plants.  

Impatiens with gray mold

What we do in our garden matters. 

From choosing organic bug controls to making compost, picking drought-tolerant plants to planting flowers for pollinators, every action we take has consequences.  Making earth-friendly choices makes our gardens and communities healthier. 

I hope the lessons my garden has taught me help you to avoid some pitfalls.  In gardening there are oh-so-many ways to get it right.  And wrong.  The fun is in the trying. 

By Annette Cormany, Principal Agent Associate and Master Gardener Coordinator, Washington County, University of Maryland Extension. This article was previously published by Herald-Mail Media. Read more by Annette.