Lawn Tips for Summer: Don’t Overmanage!

lawn mowing height
Mowing at 3-3 ½” will reduce the potential for summer weeds. Photo by Geoff Rinehart

With summer right around the corner and gardening season in full bloom, many homeowners have been spending more time outdoors with yard maintenance activities. One temptation is to “want to do something’’ to make your lawn better since it has been a long, cool spring and it has only been in the last few months or so that things have really started growing. However, it’s important to remember that “doing something” for the sake of just “doing something” can have negative consequences, especially as we enter the hot months of summer.

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Bottlebrush Grass – Gorgeous Native Ornamental For Your Garden

A wild Bottlebrush Grass plant in the Potomac River floodplain
A wild Bottlebrush Grass plant in the Potomac River floodplain

Elymus hystrix got its common name, Bottlebrush Grass, by having seed heads in the shape of a bottle-washing brush. Both the seed heads and the stems are coated with a white wax, making this a gorgeous ornamental grass for your garden, especially when situated against a dark background.

The Nature of Bottlebrush Grass

In the winter, the basal foliage is lively and green, even during the coldest of winters. As a cool-season grass, Bottlebrush does most of its growth in spring. Flower stems are sent up in June and seeds are set in July.

Bottlebrush is native throughout Maryland, but only in soils with good calcium availability. That makes it uncommon in the Coastal Plain, where soils tend to be nutrient poor. Even there, it does grow wild where shell deposits have enriched the soil.

Many insect species use the Bottlebrush Grass as a host plant, including the Northern Pearly Eye Butterfly. Photo by MDF, via Wikimedia.
Many insect species use the Bottlebrush Grass as a host plant, including the Northern Pearly Eye Butterfly. By Mdf GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0 from Wikimedia Commons

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Monthly Tips for June

Ornamental Plants

New Englang aster

  • Attract beneficial insects to your landscape by planting a wide variety of flowering annuals and perennials that will bloom over the entire growing season. Good choices are plants in the following families: daisy (marigolds, daisies, asters, mums), carrot (dill, fennel, anise, yarrow, parsley) and mint (all mints and thymes).
  • Pinch out the flower buds of fall blooming asters, mums, goldenrod and other fall bloomers to keep plants bushy and prevent early flowering.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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?

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