Maryland Grows

Are Cheaper Vegetable and Flower Seeds Just as Good as More Expensive Seeds?

“Though I do not believe a plant will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders.”

From Faith in a Seed by Henry D. Thoreau.

Many of us are starting to think about seeds to plant in 2018. “What seeds do I have on hand, and what seeds do I need to buy?” “Can I put my faith in cheap seeds and save money without sacrificing quality?”

Seed packet prices can range from less than $1 to $5 based on the plant species, how expensive it was to produce, level of customer service, packet size, time of year purchased, and many other factors.

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Featured Video: Choosing and Caring for Flowering Houseplants

Thinking of giving a houseplant as a gift?  Take a look at this quick rundown of some popular flowering choices available at your local nursery.

More info on houseplants

How to Avoid Most Plant Problems with One Concept – Right Plant, Right Place

trees and shrubs in a nursery

There are many tempting plant choices at garden centers. Be sure to research the mature height and width of plants before you make a selection for your landscape.

Many plant problems in the landscape could be avoided by choosing the right plant for the purpose and the site. Many insects and diseases are opportunists, taking advantage of plants that are stressed and aren’t healthy enough to fight back.

Whether your landscape plants are having issues with insects, diseases, lack of blooming, or just overall poor performance, chances are that they were not suited for the location in the first place. Improper planting practices or other non-biological factors can contribute to problems and will be addressed in another blog post.

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Learning How to Identify Maryland’s Native Trees in Winter: Look at More Than Just the Bark

I was very excited to have the opportunity to take a winter tree identification class. I attended a great University of Maryland Extension (UME) Master Gardener Advanced Training course with UME native plant specialist Sara Tangren last week. I assumed we’d be looking at bark. The classroom at the Extension in Westminster was filled with tree twigs… not bark.

I never took the time to really notice the details of a twig. The opposite leaf pairs on the stem are opposite side to side, then front to back. I never paid attention to that simple pattern. I recognized new stem growth and last years’ growth, terminal buds, leaf scars, vein scars, lenticels, etc.

Maple twig buds and leaf scars are opposite.  A trick to remember trees that have opposite leaves is “MAD Horse Buck” – Maple – Ash – Dogwood – Horse Chestnut – Buckeye!

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Are Stink Bugs Bugging You? Are Wasps the Solution?

project stink-be-gone logoSummary: Learn how University of Maryland researchers and University of Maryland Extension (UME) Master Gardeners collaborate on research to reduce brown marmorated stink bug populations in Maryland. Project Stink-be-Gone, by Rebeccah Waterworth

As temperatures cool, many of you probably have had to share your homes with bugs. One of the most notorious of these squatters is brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) (Fig. 1). It is also a serious pest of many economically important crops. Paula Shrewsbury and I are interested in developing sustainable pest management practices for BMSB, particularly biological control using small wasps (Fig. 2). These critters are also known as parasitoids, and they lay their own eggs inside a stink bug egg. The baby wasp (larva) inside the stink bug egg eats the developing stink bug. After about 10 days, the wasp larvae have become adults, chew their way out of the bug eggs, and fly off to look for new bug eggs to parasitize! Stink bugs do not hatch from the eggs where wasps emerged (see the video at the end of this post).

brown marmorated stinkbug adult

Fig. 1  An adult brown marmorated stink bug, Halyomorpha halys. Photo by David R. Lance, USDA APHIS PPQ from bugwood.org.

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Spotted Lanternfly: A New Invasive Pest That is Too Close for Comfort

spotted lanternfly adult

Spotted Lanterfly Adult. Photo: Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Bugwood.org

Spotted Lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) is an insect native to China that was first detected in Southeastern Pennsylvania in September 2014.  It has spread fairly rapidly since then. There were recent finds in Delaware and New York. Both were dead individual adults.

spotted lanternfly quarantin map of pennsylvania november 2017

A quarantine is in place in several counties of Southeastern Pennsylvania to restrict the spread of Spotted Lanternfly. Source: Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture

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Lawn and Garden Tips and Tricks for December

Lawn

  • healthy soilGet a head start on spring lawn projects by submitting a soil test now. Keeping the soil pH in the 6.0 – 7.0 range is very important in maintaining healthy turf.
  • Hand-pull winter annual weeds now to keep them from going to seed this spring. Some common annual weeds include chickweed, henbit, hairy bittercress and dead nettle.
  • Try to avoid excessive walking on your grass when it is frozen this winter to avoid damaging the crowns of your grass plants.

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