Maryland Grows

A Lawn Retrospective on the Summer of 2018: Looking Ahead to the Fall Season

nutsedge and crabgrass in a lawn

Nutsedge and crabgrass have been particular challenges this year with all of the late summer rain.

It seems like ages ago, but during late spring and early summer we were in the midst of a long dry spell–and then things changed! It seems once the rain started it hardly ever stopped during late July and early August and all of this rain created its own set of problems. In particular, summer annual weeds and sedges were given new life with all of the wet conditions. For many homeowners, it has been a difficult summer keeping weeds like crabgrass, Japanese stiltgrass, kyllinga, and nutsedge at bay during the wet, humid weather. Even folks who had applied a second application of pre-emergent herbicide in late spring were seeing that product break down more rapidly with the inordinate amounts of rain the region experienced.

University of Maryland (UMD) research (and others) has indicated that the best way to deter crabgrass is to mow higher. Experiment plots mowed in the 3½-4” range have consistently had less crabgrass invasion than plots mowed at 2” or 3”. While this late summer weather has led to a lot of crabgrass and sedge invasion, homeowners can take solace in the fact that relief is in sight as far as the calendar is concerned. Late August/early September is the perfect time of year to re-seed with cool-season grasses like tall fescue to undertake a full-scale renovation or a lawn “rejuvenation.” Read More

Japanese Maples in Maryland Landscapes: Plant Location & Care Are Keys to Success

Japanese maple leaves

Japanese maple. Photo: Pixabay

The group of small ornamental shade trees lumped under the name Japanese maples, Acer palmatum and A. japonicum, and their many hybrids, are very popular with gardeners and plant enthusiasts. Most of the questions we receive about problems with Japanese maples are horticulturally related to poor growing conditions and maintenance rather than insects or diseases. The causes of these problems are usually root or trunk-related issues. So, let’s start with a look at the planting conditions Japanese maples need in order to thrive.  Read More

Feed More, Waste Less: UME Master Gardeners Assist in Partnership to Glean and Share Leftover Crops

harvesting blueberries

Glean team members with their blueberry harvest. Photo by Susan Wexler

In the USA, approximately 50% of the nation’s produce is wasted, some as “crop shrink,” food that is grown and never harvested. This happens for reasons including weather and market conditions. Whatever the case, this is nutritious food that can improve the diets of those who are food insecure. In Montgomery County, Maryland, 1 in 3 public school children receive free or reduced priced meals and 78,000 residents are food insecure.

To help feed more and waste less, Community Food Rescue (CFR), a program of Manna Food Center in Gaithersburg, the University of Maryland Extension (UME) Food Supplement Nutrition Education (FSNE) Program, and UME Montgomery County Master Gardeners (MGs) have partnered to pilot a gleaning program. Gleaning is the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers’ fields after they have been commercially harvested, or on fields where it was not economically profitable to harvest.

In 2017 Pam Hosimer of UME FSNE learned that Waters Orchard had a bumper crop of apples that would go to waste after their pick-your-own season ended. She had a better idea – gleaning and delivering the apples directly to students who are food insecure. With the support of Waters Orchard owners Susan Butler and Washington White, UME Master Gardeners were recruited to glean, and the fresh apples were delivered by CFR to several local schools.

Master Gardener Logo

The successful glean inspired Pam Hosimer and Susan Wexler (of CFR) to team up and organize a broader gleaning effort for the 2018 growing season. Farmers were recruited with the assistance of the Montgomery County Office of Agriculture. This season, four Montgomery County farms are participating in the pilot.

Susan coordinates dates with the farmers and recruits volunteers through the Master Gardeners email list. Community Food Rescue volunteer “food runners” deliver the produce to not-for-profit organizations and CFR assists the farmer donors in documenting the tax credit which is available in six Maryland counties. Pam arranges for the schools to have the produce washed and distributed directly to the students. This program also has yielded additional partnerships. Volunteer gleaners from the regional office of the General Services Administration and from the Montgomery County Food Council also have participated.

group of people harvesting food

Photo by Susan Wexler

Most gleaning can be accomplished by anyone who would be able to enjoy a “pick-your-own” experience. The challenges are recruiting farmers and gleaners and scheduling. Farmers are not able to precisely target when their fields will be ready to be gleaned. Volunteers must be made aware that the timing of the glean may change and organizers must have a good back bench of volunteers to recruit. It is critical that the glean team be reliable and attentive to the farmer’s instructions.

The program will continue next year. We are hoping to have more farms participate and more community groups to help with the gleaning. We will be reaching out to communities of faith and their teen youth groups as well as Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, 4-H, and any other teen groups (14 years old and up) seeking community service projects. To learn more, contact us!

Pam Hosimer:
Susan Wexler:

By University of Maryland Extension Agent Associate Pam Hosimer and Community Food Rescue Outreach Coordinator Susan Wexler. Pam and Susan are UME Master Gardener Program volunteers in Montgomery County, Maryland.

What’s Growing in Baltimore? Community Gardens!

On July 21 I grabbed my umbrella and joined three UME faculty (Wanda MacLachlan, Sara Via, and Kelsey Brooks) to judge seven community garden finalists in the Charm City Farm & Garden Contest, sponsored by the UME Master Gardener program in Baltimore City. We spent an amazing day zig-zagging through the city and visiting gardens, ably guided by MGs Robert Cook and Derek Joost. We were all in awe of the creativity, skill, perseverance, and resourcefulness of the gardeners.

Here are some gardening tips and photos from four of the gardens:

Conkling St. Garden

Conkling St. Garden

Murals are a common sight on walls next to gardens. This garden serves Highlandtown and the Baltimore-Highlands neighborhood. There are 20 large raised beds, plus flowers, herbs, fruit trees.

Conkling St. Garden

A majority of Baltimore community gardens are located on vacant lots with no topsoil. Raised beds are typically filled with compost (often mushroom compost) or mixtures of compost and topsoil. High quality growing media combined with deep beds produces large, healthy plants and high yields. Electrical conduit is used to support clear plastic to extend the season.

Harwood Community Garden

Harwood Community Garden

Love the artwork in this Adopt-a-Lot community garden in East Baltimore. People garden collectively and share the harvest, a growing trend among community gardens.

Harwood Community Garden

These tomato plants, planted as a double row, are over 6 ft. tall and loaded with fruit.

They used the “Florida-weave” method to support plants between runs of heavy twine or string. Tie off on the end post and wrap around each post in the row, and then repeat on the other side, tying off where you started.

Our Community Garden

Our Community Garden

This amazing West Baltimore garden is really a series of gardens created over 25 years on vacant lots that had been a dumping ground. Hard work, community organizing and many truckloads of city leaf mold made it a success.

Our Community Garden

Garden leaders recognized on wall of the Memory Garden: Justine Bonner (center, deceased) was the garden founder and a Master Gardener. Hannah Trent (right) is a Master Gardener and the current garden leader.

Victorine Q. Adams Memorial Garden

This garden started as a project to clean up two vacant lots. It’s now a beautiful and productive garden, a source of community pride, and this year’s winning garden in the Vegetable/Ornamental category!


Mega-healthy purslane grown as an “under crop” beneath collards.

Clever use of a plastic pallet to support winter squash plants, saving garden space.

Clever use of a plastic pallet to support winter squash plants, saving garden space.

Community space next to the garden features a stage, barbecue pit, and African-American history.

We got wet on that Saturday but left inspired and better educated about community gardening in the city. I hope I get invited to judge next year!


By Jon Traunfeld, Extension Specialist

Fall Food Gardening – Featured Video

Now is a good time to start thinking about and planning for any fall food gardening you might want to do this year.  Planting for some crops can begin late August and early September.

Cardinal Flower Is for Hummingbirds

Cardinal flower

Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis). Photo: C. Carignan

I gave up on my hummingbird feeder years ago. It was more than I wanted to do to keep up with changing the sugar solution every two to three days, as recommended to keep the food free of spoilage that could be harmful to the birds. I saw that hummingbirds would visit some of my garden flowers just as much as the feeder, so I decided just to provide flowers for them. More flowers for me, more natural nectar for them. A win-win.

In my garden, ruby-throated hummingbirds most often fed at my scarlet bee balm, blue salvias, brilliantly colored zinnias, and orange butterfly weed. This year they have an additional choice that appears to be their new favorite. It is the flower whose color resembles that of a different bird, cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis).

This Maryland native plant produces 2-4′ tall spikes of bright, cardinal-red flowers that are irresistible to hummingbirds in mid to late summer. In fact, hummingbirds are an essential pollinator of these plants.

Cardinal flower was easy for me to grow from seeds sown directly outside. In the fall of 2016, I scattered seeds in a low area of my yard where water frequently would puddle after heavy rain. They sprouted and grew low foliage and a few small flower spikes the following season. This year I have plants that are well established and the flower spikes are tall and brilliant. Cardinal flower grows best in moist to wet soils, so this has been a fabulous year for it!

If you have a shady or partially shaded area that tends to stay moist in your yard, cardinal flower might be a great choice for you. Allow these plants to reseed naturally so you’ll have flowers — and a natural hummingbird feeding station — year after year.

Additional Resources

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

Q&A: What’s wrong with my hydrangea flowers?

hydrangeaQ: My hydrangea bloomed white but instead of turning red it turned brown. What is happening to the petals and what can be done?

A: A disease called Botrytis blight can cause spots and browning symptoms on the flower petals of Hydrangea and other types of flowers as well. Extended periods of cloudy, rainy weather like we had recently can favor the development of this fungal disease. Botrytis first appears as water-soaked spots that gradually expand into brown blotches. There is no remedy for this damage. Prune out and dispose of the damaged flower parts.

The spotting on the leaves is common on Hydrangeas in late summer, especially in our humid climate. Leaf spots can be caused by fungal and bacterial pathogens. The leaf spots are mainly a cosmetic problem. They will not kill the plant. Chemical control is not recommended in most home garden situations.

Keep Hydrangeas watered regularly during drought periods and avoid overhead watering to minimize wetness on the flowers and foliage. Clean up and dispose of symptomatic leaves at the end of the growing season.

Visit the Home & Garden Information Center website for more information on common problems of trees and shrubs.

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

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