Maryland Grows

Q&A: Try these groundcovers that will keep deer away

Alleghany pachysadra

Allegheny Spurge (Pachysandra procumbens). Photo by E. Nibali

Q: What groundcovers can you recommend for shade? I’ve removed all the English ivy and need something before erosion starts. I like evergreen ones, and I also have deer problems.

A: Many of the following are deer resistant, if not completely deer proof. Allegheny pachysandra, for example, is a four-season actor in the garden with quirky spring flowers and attractive mottled leaves that deer don’t touch. Other evergreen choices include Christmas ferns, wood ferns (semi-evergreen), moss, and golden groundsel (yellow spring flowers about 1-inch tall).

Deciduous groundcovers can prevent erosion, too, as their roots hold soil even after leaves fall. Proven choices include Canadian ginger, Phlox stolonifera (purple spring bloom), Tiarella (white spring bloom), Iris reticulata (purple spring flowers) and many ferns including hay-scented fern.

Matching plants to soil types can be crucial for success. An excellent reference is the free online Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation Landscaping: Chesapeake Bay Watershed. It has color photos and growth conditions (soil type, sun and moisture levels) in an easy chart format.

Temporarily lay timbers or branches across a slope to slow down run-off during plant establishment. Then supplement rainfall religiously for at least two years to get plants established.

By Ellen Nibali, Horticulturist, University of Maryland Extension Home & Garden Information Center. Ellen writes the Garden Q&A for The Baltimore Sun.

Featured Video – Pruning: Removing Tomato Suckers

Learn why and how you should remove tomato plant suckers so you can grow tomatoes more efficiently.

Tomato Planting Tips

Chill out tomato gardeners. You’ve been stressing about moving those tender transplants outdoors and into the ground. Your reputation for growing the best tomatoes in the neighborhood is on the line again. But there’s no need to worry because these 5 Tips and 4 Videos will help you lay the foundation for tomato success in 2018!

8 week plant

Nice eight week old plant, but the gardener
could have saved time, trouble & money by starting the seeds two weeks later. A smaller plant would have produced just as much fruit!

Tip #1: “My plants got too big”!

Starting seeds too early is not a rookie mistake: lots of experienced gardeners do it too!  You have two choices if your transplants are outgrowing their containers: plant them (see below) or pot up to a larger container (watch How to Pot up Transplants)

Next year, start later! It only takes 5-6 weeks to grow a perfectly fine tomato transplant indoors under fluorescent light tubes.

Buying your tomato plants this week? Check out our video, What Size Tomato Plant is Best.

 

Read More

Essential Oils for Mosquito Control

Mosquito season is here, and many people turn to essential oils for mosquito control as a way of avoiding synthetic insecticides, but this is often met with a mixture of success.

Asian tiger mosquito

The Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus, is an aggressive daytime feeder commonly found in urban and suburban areas.  Photo by Susan Ellis, Bugwood.org

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considered essential oils to be minimum risk pesticides, so there is no testing being done on their effectiveness before they go to market, which allows for a wide range of products to be sold that may not work. While there is a growing interest in the use of essential oils as possible methods for controlling mosquitoes, most of these studies are focusing on how essential oils can be used when applied to the skin or fabric as a repellent rather than as a yard barrier spray. Garlic oil, Lemongrass oil, and Citronella oil are commonly used essential oils in barrier sprays, but there is little to no research on them showing their effectiveness on mosquitoes in the United States.

Read More

Greenlaurel: Bring birds and butterflies to your backyard with native plants

This article has been republished from Baltimore Fishbowl with permission from author Laurel Peltier, and features quotes from the HGIC’s native plant expert Sara Tangren.

Monarch Butterfly

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Crossing your fingers that lots of butterflies, birds, and bees will visit your outdoor space this summer? Integrating native plants into your backyard is the secret to building habitats for these pollinators. Plus, natives are affordable and just as beautiful as the usual garden plant suspects.

Long before European settlers brought their perfect lawns and Asian flora and fauna to North America, native plants and our local bugs, birds and animals evolved together as an ecosystem, depending on each other for survival and reproduction.

Over time, as we’ve replaced our yards and farmlands with lawns and alien plants from other continents, we’ve suppressed the native habitats that our local creatures live and feast on.

“Our sense of the ‘ideal’ garden has changed over time from natural landscapes that are less structured with less contrast dominated by wildflowers, to more controlled and tidier gardens with bolder colors,” said Sara Tangren, an agent associate for the University of Maryland Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources, where she teaches about native plants and sustainable landscaping.

Read More

Q&A: What’s Wrong With My Pachysandra?

volutella blight on pachysandra

Q: We have a steep hill that is covered with mature Japanese Pachysandra that is dying. It is under a large tulip tree. This groundcover was healthy for more than twenty years. During the last couple of years the leaves have turned yellow then the tips turn brown and curl up. The plant then dies. What is going on and how can we correct this problem?

Read More

The Importance of Being Labeled

IMG_2476

A plant label at the Derwood Demo Garden, showing scientific and common names, and potential culinary uses

Have any of these happened to you? (They have to me.)

  • You sow some Very Important Seeds in a flat or container, and don’t mark them in any way, because they are Very Important and of course you will never forget what they are. Next day: what were those?
  • You transfer some seedlings into larger pots, put the pots into a tray, and decide that it’s only necessary to mark the row since the seedlings are all the same variety (the next row is another variety, also marked). Something happens: a shift in the fabric of the universe, a decision about how the pots fit under the lights, a cat. You no longer know which pots are which.
  • You sow some seeds directly in your garden, and because you’ve seen other people do it, you stick the empty seed packet on a stake at the end of the row. It is a dark and stormy night. The seed packet blows away.
  • You transplant seedlings into your garden and put the proper labels next to each plant. Sun and rain do their work; one day, you look at the label and it is blank. Which tomato is which? Help!
  • Your flower beds become full of those little plastic sticks which look lonely and sad in the wintertime. Small children, animals, and Mother Nature move them around at will.

Let’s talk about labeling!

Read More