Maryland Grows

Squash Family Pest Problem Tips

CucumberThe squash plant family (Cucurbitaceae) includes many garden favorites- cucumber, summer and winter squash, pumpkin, muskmelon, and watermelon. Unfortunately, it’s a family vulnerable to some of the most consequential insect pest and disease problems. The names squash bug, cucumber beetle, squash vine borer, downy mildew, and bacterial wilt strike fear in a gardener’s heart. And those just represent the starting team. The legion of potential pest problems is sufficient to bring the toughest gardener to his knees sobbing in anguish.

But there’s hope for the human animals competing against insects, mites, and pathogens for these valued food resources. There are many ways to prevent and manage these problems and these are covered in detail on the HGIC website. Here are a few strategies that I think are less widely used. Give them a try in your pursuit of higher yields with fewer tears!

  1. Select disease resistant cultivars. Cornell University’s Vegetable MD Online website has a matrix for each vegetable crop that lists all major diseases and cultivars with resistance claims. They even include seed companies that sell the seeds! Special note: ‘County Fair’ cucumber is resistant to bacterial wilt; butternut and ‘Tromboncino’ squash are fairly resistant to squash vine borer.
  2. Apply floating row covers when seedlings emerge or transplants go in. The material excludes all critters. Remove the cover when plants start to bloom.
  3. Plant around insect pests by planting healthy transplants as soon as conditions allow or waiting until mid-June to plant seeds. Plant pumpkin and winter squash from late June to July 4th.
  4. Keep planting. Cucumber and summer squash can be sown several times, 2-3 weeks apart.
  5. Scout your plants for signs and symptoms of problems and take action early!

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Featured Video: Keep Bugs Off My Vegetables! How to Deal With Insects in the Garden

Mike Raupp, “The Bug Guy” for the University of Maryland Extension, talks about an easy way to get rid of pesky bugs in your garden called Integrated Pest Management, or IPM.

Integrated Pest Management coordinates the use of pest biology, environmental information, and available technology to prevent unacceptable levels of pest damage— using the most economical means while posing the least possible risk to people, property, resources, and the environment. Mike Raupp gives us five steps for an IPM system: building a knowledge base, monitoring your plants, making decisions, intervening, and keeping records. Incorporate IPM into your garden routine and you’ll be able to safely and organically control damaging insects.

Learn more on the HGIC website.

The Cure for All Your Ills Might Just Be A Native Plant

You may know Yarrow as a great garden plant for attracting small pollinators and beneficial insects. But there’s a lot more to it than that!

Yarrow, Achillea millefolium, has been used as a medicinal for a very long time. No, we’re not talking about your great-grandmother, we’re talking about Neanderthals. Archeologists have identified yarrow among the medicinal herbs that were buried with a Neanderthal 65,000 years ago. From Asia to North America, cultures of our own species have used yarrow medicinally for longer than records have been kept. In Greek mythology, the warrior Achilles was schooled on the medicinal uses of yarrow, for whom the genus has since been named. In recent decades, ethnobotanists noted that numerous indigenous cultures around the globe were using yarrow to treat the same types of ailments, an indication that an herb is in fact probably medically active for those conditions (see table). In this millennium, these suspicions have been borne out by recent clinical trials showing: more rapid healing of flesh wounds; decreased menstrual pain; improved kidney function; improved liver function; and improvement of dry mouth in chemotherapy patients. Gee, those Neanderthals were on to something!

But is Yarrow a native plant? Again, research conducted in the new millennium has shown that what we once called Achillea millefolium is actually a cosmopolitan complex of species and subspecies. Among those, American Yarrow (Achillea borealis), arrived in North America via the Alaskan land bridge during a period of low sea level, probably within the last one million years. Since that time, it has spread across the continent, using a powerful bag of evolutionary tricks to adapt to diverse environments such as dunes, mountain tops, and mesic meadows. Populations from these different environments are genetically distinctive, and there are likely to be multiple ecotypes even within a local area. According to Weakley (2015) if you encounter Yarrow in a native meadow in the Mid-Atlantic, it is most likely the native American Yarrow. However, the similar-looking aliens A. millefolium and A. filipendulina are sometimes found in disturbed areas, especially near port cities like Washington, D.C. and Baltimore.

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Why Is Leyland Cypress Turning Brown? Winter Took Its Toll

Leyland cypress showing winter damage

Winter damage on Leyland cypress trees. Photo: Dave Clement, University of Maryland Extension

Leyland cypress (x Cupressocyparis leylandii) has a lot going for it. It’s fast-growing with evergreen, feathery foliage and a pleasing, slender profile. It makes an excellent specimen tree or screening plant. A cross between two Pacific coast species, the Leyland cypress thrives best in moist, cool climates with moderate temperatures. These trees are hardy to zone 6, however, they do not tolerate sudden temperature fluctuations. We indeed experienced some of these very cold sudden temperature fluctuations this past December and January. The first winter damage symptoms will begin showing up as browning and dieback this spring as temperatures begin to warm and stimulate new growth.

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What Can I Do About My Neighbor’s Plants Coming Onto My Property?

bamboo

Bamboo. Photo: Chuck Bargeron, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org

Maryland property owners are limited to self-help when dealing with plants encroaching on their properties. This is not legal advice.

Have a neighbor who has planted bamboo or another invasive plant species near your shared property line and now that plant has started encroaching on your property? What can you do in this situation? Maryland has only one decision discussing damage from plants growing on a neighbor’s property. In Melnick v. C.S.X. Corp., the Court of Appeals of Maryland limited landowners to self-help to remove invasive plant species from growing on your property. The courts in Maryland have found that “it is undesirable to categorize living trees, plants, roots, or vines as a “nuisance” to be abated. Consequently, we decline to impose liability upon an adjoining landowner for the “natural processes and cycles” of trees, plants, roots, and vines.” (Melnick, 520-521). Self-help means it will be up to you to remove the roots, limbs, vines, and other plant debris and not the neighbor who planted the invasive plant species. A neighbor cannot seek damages in court for the damages caused by the invasive plant species.

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Onions and day length

Have you ever looked through a seed catalog, deciding which onion seed or plants to buy, and been perplexed by the words “long-day” or “short-day” attached to each variety? Or sometimes “intermediate-day” or “day-neutral”? You might just give up in confusion and order by a familiar name or tasty-sounding description, but really, this is something you need to pay attention to, because onions are… photothermoperiodic!

Yeah, right, you say. Read on to find out what this means and why it’s important, though not as important here in Maryland as it would be if we lived in Mississippi or Minnesota.

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Lawn and Garden Tips for April

Wildlife

Eastern box turtle

Eastern box turtle

  • Eastern box turtles and various species of snakes are coming out of hibernation and may visit your yard. Box turtles are becoming scarce throughout much of Maryland because of road mortality and habitat destruction. Observe turtles, but don’t collect them as pets.
  • The eggs of amphibians like wood frogs and toads will hatch in a couple of weeks and produce many small tadpoles. If you need to do some work in your pond, try not to disturb their eggs. Learn more about Creating a Herp Friendly Landscape and Interesting Visitors in Your Landscape.

Houseplants

(Cissus rhombifolia) Oak or grape leaf ivy

(Cissus rhombifolia) Oak or grape leaf ivy

  • This is a good time to re-pot and divide houseplants. Use lightweight, well-drained soilless potting mixes containing peat moss, vermiculite, and perlite.
  • Begin to fertilize houseplants again. The increase in natural light will prompt them to grow.
  • Fungus gnats are small, harmless black flies that hover around, breed in and feed on moist growing media. They can be controlled by being careful not to over-water houseplants. Growing media should be allowed to dry out before watering again.

Lawns

  • LawnThe height and frequency of mowing lawn are very important. Cool season grasses such as tall fescue and bluegrass should be maintained at 3.0 inches for most of the growing season.
  • Keep your mower blades sharp to prevent turf damage. Dry, white, or tan-colored grass blade tips are an indication that the mower blade is dull. Dull mower blades tear turf grass and can lead to disease problems.
  • Leave the grass clippings where they lay. “Grasscycling” eliminates bagging labor and adds organic matter and nitrogen to your soil, allowing you to apply 25% less nitrogen fertilizer.

More tips from the Home & Garden Information Center

The Home & Garden Information Center’s horticulturists are available year-round to answer your plant and pest questions. In addition to gardening questions, we cover houseplants, indoor pests, and more. Send your questions and photos to Ask an Expert!