Maryland Grows

The Garden Hoes Podcast – Summertime Watering

Garden Hoes Podcast Player

As Dr. Wayne Dyer said, “The only difference between a flower and a weed is judgment.” June weeds are certainly testing our judgment. As we move into our third month of quarantine, our gardens are buzzing with activity. In this month’s episode, we discuss how to become garden detectives with Integrated Pest Management or IPM, fungal spots, timely watering tips, and our features for tip/bug/native plant of the month!

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a research-based holistic approach to pest management that emphasizes biological control versus the use of pesticides until absolutely necessary. In Maryland, we typically experience hot dry summers. Swiftly, our days merge from tranquil and breezy to sweltering and humid. During this time, our plants may show signs of decline. Making sure that they’re properly watered and taken care of will help ensure their survival. For more Watering Tips for Drought Conditions check out Factsheet HG85.


  • IPM – Start
  • Fungal Spots at (~6:55)
  • Watering Tips at (~10:00)
  • Native Plant of the Month at (~14:20) “Asclepias syriaca,” or common milkweed
  • Bug of the Month at (~20:00) “Water Strides” aka Jesus bugs
  • Garden Tips of the Month at (~23:00) “Bagworms, warm-season crop updates, and garden updates”

Click here to listen


The Garden Hoes Podcast is brought to you by the University of Maryland Extension. Hosts are Mikaela Boley- Senior Agent Associate (Talbot County) for Horticulture, Rachel Rhodes- Agent Associate for Horticulture (Queen Anne’s County), and Emily Zobel-Senior Agent Associate for Agriculture (Dorchester County).

Grow healthy, productive plants with the right supports

using plant supports in the garden

Washington County Master Gardener Karen Greeley (left) shows Elyse Phillips her garden which uses several types of plant supports.

Being supported is important. For you. For me. And for our garden plants.

The right garden supports help keep plants healthy. Lifting them up, up, up on stakes, cages and trellises boosts air circulation. This cuts down on rot and fungal disease.

Garden supports help keep heavy blooms from snapping stems. Is there anything worse than finding your prize delphinium prone in the morning, her poor neck broken by fierce wind?

Supports also expose vegetables and fruits to more sun, helping them to ripen faster. And they make picking easier, lessening knee and back strain.

Best of all, plant supports save space. Vertical gardening gives you a good harvest in a smaller footprint.

Place stakes, cages, and trellises early so plants are supported from the get-go. This avoids unpleasant wrangling of jungle-like growth later which is not good for you, your plants, or your resolution to avoid colorful language.

Anchor supports deeply to give them strength and stability when the inevitable high winds and rains come and plants grow large and heavy.

Some plants naturally cling with tendrils. Others need ties. Use a soft material like a strip of an old t-shirt, pantyhose, or reusable Velcro plant ties.

Plant supports can be store-bought or homemade. Use wood, bamboo, string, and other materials to make your own. Or hit your favorite local garden center, supercenter, or online store.

What type of supports are best?

Stakes are good for tall plants with a single flowering stem such as foxgloves or lilies. Some even come with hoops to lasso stems. My daddy staked his 10-foot tomatoes and harvested with a ladder. It was a point of pride.

But cages work better for heftier plants like tomatoes. Simply a frame with a grid, cages are good for shrubby edibles like tomatoes and eggplants.

I like square cages that fold flat for storage, but any sturdy cage will do. Steer clear of flimsy ones which tip over with the slightest provocation, also inducing colorful language.

Trellises are upright panels with criss-crossed wood or string. Both single panels and A-frames work well. In our demo garden, we use upright metal frames with string mesh.

Trellises are ideal for plants that twine or cling with tendrils such as peas, cucumbers, and pole beans. You can also use them for melons and squash provided you give the heavy fruits some extra support.

use a strip of fabric to support a melon on a trellis

Large fruits such as this cantaloupe can be supported on trellises with a wide strip of fabric.

That’s right, boys and girls. It’s time to talk about cantaloupe bras. Laugh if you will, but strips of my old t-shirt served well to lift and separate cantaloupes on our demo garden trellis.

Teepees provide both support and a pleasing focal point. Use them for vining plants or those that climb with tendrils. Make a fun kids’ teepee by growing beans and morning glories on a frame.

Hybrid supports work well for specific plants. Circles with grids and legs are terrific to prop up perennials with large, heavy flowers such as peonies.

Look up. Think up. And grow your plants up with the right supports.

By Annette Cormany, Principal Agent Associate and Master Gardener Coordinator, Washington County, University of Maryland Extension. This article was previously published by Herald-Mail Media. Read more by Annette.

Hidden Garden Party: Who’s Eating Whom?

aphids on cantelope leaf

Heavy aphid infestation on the underside of a cantaloupe leaf. Photo: Ashley Bodkins

Who loves a party? I know I do, especially a summer BBQ with all the family favorites! Insects are no exception and really know how to have some fun. Pictured above is a party of aphids, which are tiny little suckers — literally. They are soft bodied insects that suck plant sap with their piercing, sucking mouthparts.

aphid damage leaf curling

Twisted, deformed leaves are a symptom of aphid feeding damage. Photo: Ashley Bodkins

Aphids can come in many colors ranging from shades of green to black. They suck juice right from plant tissues, resulting in bent and twisted leaves as seen in the picture above. Aphids are generally only found on the underside of leaves and can be in very large numbers. Once a colony is established females can even reproduce without a male.

They secrete a sweet, sugary waste liquid that is called “honeydew”. Sometimes a fungus grows on the
honeydew, which is called sooty mold and looks like someone smeared coal soot on the plant.

Seeing ants on your plants can be your first sign that there is an aphid infestation. Ants love honeydew and often “farm” aphid colonies to reap the benefits.

ladybird beetle

The ladybird beetle is a natural enemy of aphids. Photo: Ashley Bodkins

Aphids can transmit plant virus diseases, but generally they aren’t found in large enough numbers to warrant a chemical control. Mother Nature actually Ahas some really interesting predators for aphids. In fact, the beautiful red with black spotted ladybird beetle (ladybug) is an avid aphid hunter and can eat more than 5,000 aphids throughout its four-part life cycle.

lady beetle larva eating an aphid

Ladybird beetle larva eating an aphid. Photo: Lenny Wells, University of Georgia,

Other natural predators include lacewings, flower fly larvae, and parasitic wasps. Evidence of natural predators include “aphid mummies” which are light brown, hollow aphid bodies that were once inhabited by parasitic wasp larvae.

aphid mummies

Mummies of oleander aphids parasitized by Aphidius sp. wasp. Note the hole in the aphid at the top right of the photo indicating a wasp has emerged. Photo: David Cappaert,

syrphid larva

Flower fly larva feeding on an oleander aphid. Photo: David Cappaert,

Physical control of aphids can be accomplished by spraying the pests with a strong stream of water. This causes them to fall off the plant and hopefully disrupt their feeding. As a last resort, use chemical
controls such as insecticidal soap or Pyrethrum products.

By Ashley Bodkins, Senior Agent Associate and Master Gardener Coordinator, Garrett County, Maryland, edited by Christa Carignan, Coordinator, Home & Garden Information Center, University of Maryland Extension. See more posts by Ashley and Christa.

Swarms, Swarms, and More Honeybee Swarms!

Swarm of bees on a branch

Photo by Anne Arundel County Master Gardener Beekeeping Project

On May 12, Nancy Allred, Interim Master Gardener Coordinator, Anne Arundel Co. called to say that one of the two Master Gardener Beekeeping Project hives at Hancock’s Resolution Park in Pasadena had swarmed. Swarming is the natural process that a honeybee colony uses to reproduce itself, so this is an exciting event. My husband and I packed up our bee jackets and drove to Hancock’s Resolution to check on the swarm.

Hancock’s Resolution is a historic farm park operated by the Friends of Hancock’s Resolution (FOHR) a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization. Under an agreement with Anne Arundel County Recreation and Parks, FOHR operates the farm and offers programming that interprets the site’s historical and agricultural significance. This remnant of a 410-acre middling plantation located in northern Anne Arundel County is on Bodkin Creek, near the mouth of the Patapsco River, and was once a well-situated market farm with close access to the Chesapeake Bay and the port towns of Baltimore and Annapolis.

Master Gardeners tend a demonstration garden and are on hand to discuss 18th-century farming practices, answer questions about plants, and invite visitors to participate in garden activities (however, activities and access are currently on hold due to COVID-19). Since 2009, Master Gardeners have tended the hives and provided pollinator educational programs that currently feature an observation hive that provides a view of the inner workings of a beehive.

Master Gardener beekeeper at Hancock's Resolution Park

Master Gardener beekeeper at Hancock’s Resolution Park – Photo courtesy

We were pleasantly surprised to see that the swarming bees had settled on the lower limb of a tree right next to the hives. Often swarms land just beyond the reach of your tallest ladder, so we were very lucky.

When swarming, the colony splits into two distinct colonies. The queen and about half of the workers (females) leave the hive in search of an appropriate site for their new home, often a large cavity in a tree. Typically the swarm temporarily settles on a tree or structure near the hive with the workers surrounding the queen in a cohesive “teardrop” of bees. Scouts fly off to find a suitable site for the colony, which might take a day or two or more. Once they identify a suitable site, the swarm takes to the air and follows the scouts to the new site. Meanwhile back in the original colony, the workers are busy raising several queens, one of which will become the new queen of the hive.

Tending the swarm

Photo by Anne Arundel County Master Gardener Beekeeping Project

In many cases, beekeepers are thrilled to see a swarm because if they can catch the swarm, they can add another colony to their apiary or replace a colony that died during the winter (in the last few years in Maryland, beekeepers have reported losing approximately half of all colonies each year — but that’s a topic for another article).

As Brian and I looked at the swarm that had settled next to the beehives at Hancock’s Resolution, we considered catching the swarm and setting up a new colony.  However, all of the Master Gardener hives at Hancock’s Resolution and Quiet Waters Park made it through the winter just fine, and our own colonies had also survived, so we had no place to install the new swarm. Unfortunately, you can’t just put the bees back into the hive that they came from since that hive is already down the path of raising a new queen.

Since we had nowhere to put the swarm, I called a fellow beekeeper, Charles DeBarber, to come collect the swarm. Charles has worked with John Conners and myself with the beekeepers at the Correctional Institution for Women in Jessup, including to help remove a swarm that had moved into an abandoned building there. Charles wears many hats, including maintaining about 20 hives at Filbert Street Community Garden in nearby Curtis Bay, and he sets up hives for other community gardens in the area. He was thrilled to have another colony to donate to a community garden.

Charles arrived at Hancock’s Resolution 20 minutes after I called him and a few minutes later had the bees in a small box called a nuc complete with frames of honey and honeycomb to make them feel at home. The swarm was very gentle and only focused on protecting the queen who was somewhere in the middle of the ball of bees. Charles was able to collect the swarm without protective gear (don’t try this at home!) and no one got stung during this process. When Charles left, he was headed to a community garden to move the “ladies” into their new home.

Tending the swarm

Photo by Anne Arundel County Master Gardener Beekeeping Project

But that wasn’t the end of this story. The next day Nancy called again to say that ANOTHER swarm had appeared in the same location. Was it from the other hive, the same hive, or another hive in the neighborhood? There’s no way to know, but we suspect that it was from the other hive. Once again, we made the trip out to Hancock’s Resolution, called Charles, and got the second swarm (which was even larger than the first) dropped into another box to be delivered to its new home.

But, still, there’s more to the story.On May 22, ten days after Nancy called about the first swarm, she called again reporting a THIRD swarm. Once again, Charles showed up and retrieved the swarm and took it to a local community garden that was grateful to have such hardworking pollinators near their garden plots.

In the meantime, the Master Gardener Beekeeping Project honeybees at Hancock’s Resolution and Quiet Waters Park are thriving, collecting lots of nectar and pollen, raising young, and making sure that the hives have enough honey and pollen to survive the next Maryland winter.

It is a wonderful thing to support and help pollinators thrive. The transfer of pollen from the male organ to the female organ of a flowering plant – is essential to life on earth, for without pollination most people and non-human animals would not have enough food. Over 90% of all known flowering plants, and almost all fruits, vegetables and grains, require pollination to produce crops. Happily, there is a pollinator volunteer workforce that includes bees that does this job for us.

If you find a swarm on your property, you can find a beekeeper via Maryland Beekeepers Association to come and save it.

Pam McFarland, Anne Arundel County Master Gardener, University of Maryland Extension. Edited by Dan Adler.

Tomato Tips 2020

Your tomato plants survived the spring’s extreme and variable weather and are now dark-green, vigorous, and full of promise. You may have even started picking a few ripe fruits of early-maturing cultivars, especially if you garden on the Eastern Shore or in Southern Maryland.

Despite the challenges of diseases (plant and human), climate change, racism, and loved ones who don’t quite get our “tomato devotion,” we are ever hopeful about the upcoming harvest season. Here are some tips to help you navigate the challenges and pick loads of delicious fruits:

First, don’t sweat the small stuff. Tomato plants will be in the ground for 4-5 months. Even when plants are quite healthy and productive you will likely see some insect feeding, leaf spots and discoloration, dead lower leaves, pinched and torn foliage, broken stems, fruit drop, and some blossom-end rot. This can be alarming, but they can tolerate these minor, temporary issues when their basic needs are being met.

Catfaced tomato

Catfaced fruits should be removed while small and green (“small stuff”).

Container tomatoes have no weeds and fewer pest problems but require closer monitoring. Your plants are relying on a relatively small amount of growing media and you to supply the necessary water, nutrients, support, and protection. You may need to water daily and fertilize every two to three weeks. Open any drainage holes that get clogged with roots and growing media. If possible, move containers from very hot, sunny locations (especially if on hardscape) to a cooler spot that receives late afternoon and early evening shade. Full-sized cultivars need at least 5-gallons of growing mix to grow well.

Water and nutrients go together like tomato and basil. Soil water contains the plant-available nutrients taken up by plant roots. If you have fertile soil with a high organic matter content (>5% as measured by a soil testing lab) you may not need to fertilize. Commercial growers and many gardeners apply a high-nitrogen fertilizer when the first fruits start to form. Applying a dry fertilizer around established plants is called “side-dressing.” Pull mulch back, sprinkle the fertilizer evenly in an 8-inch diameter circle around the plant base, replace the mulch, and water in the fertilizer. Side-dressing example: apply ¼ – 1/3 cup of cottonseed meal fertilizer (6-2-1) per plant when green fruits appear. Follow soil test report recommendations and fertilizer label directions. See last month’s blog post on this subject.

Fruiting plants need more water. Plan to give each plant 1-2 gallons once or twice per week depending on rainfall, temperature, soil texture, mulch, and plant size. The root zone should be moist at all times so that plants can take up all the water they need. Water around the base of each plant.

water breaker nozzle with a wand

A water breaker nozzle with a wand is a good investment.

Regular, deep watering will help prevent blossom-end rot and cracking. Tomato skins thicken and harden as they enlarge and ripen. They crack easily (see below) with rapid and large changes in fruit temperature and water availability. Excess nitrogen is another contributing factor. Significant cracking can occur after heavy downpours. Fruits with poor leaf coverage are especially susceptible to cracking.

Mulching plants will help minimize weeds, conserve soil moisture, and maintain a stable soil temperature. Cover black plastic or landscape fabric with grass clippings if high soil and air temperatures begin to stress plants causing blossom drop and wilting.

Grass clippings

Grass clippings (no lawn herbicides) can be spread 4-inches deep. They recycle nutrients and feed the soil food web as they decompose.

A strong support system will keep your vines from crashing down due to storms and heavy fruit loads. Continue to secure vines to your support structure as the plants get taller. Remove suckers from vigorous stems to reduce crowding and improve air circulation around foliage. You can also lop the tops off vigorous stems to make them easier to support and manage.

Bent tomato cages

These three commercial cages were twisted and flattened in a storm. They aren’t designed to support large plants loaded with fruit.

You probably have a support system in place. If not, check out these options:

"Stake and weave" system

The “stake and weave” support system holds tomato stems upright between pairs of parallel runs of string. Newspaper sections covered with straw makes a reliable organic mulch.

T-post, wire, trellis system

Simple trellis system using 7-ft. T-posts, connected by five strands of #17 electric fence wire. Plant stems are tied to the horizontal wires.

bamboo trellis

Strong but labor-intensive bamboo structure. Uprights must be buried 15-18 inches in the soil.

Foliar diseases of tomato thrive during warm, wet, humid summers (just like tomato plants!) Early blight and Septoria leaf spot are the two main diseases that can defoliate plants and reduce yields in Maryland.

lesions on tomato leaves

Irregular lesions with a yellow halo and target pattern are classic early blight symptoms.

Septoria leaf spot

Septoria leaf spot appears as small distinct lesions with dark borders and tan centers.

Symptoms of these leaf spot diseases are first seen on lower leaves. The infection moves up the plant, spreading rapidly during humid, wet weather. They often co-occur and are managed the same way:

  1. Provide adequate spacing to increase air circulation and remove all suckers that emerge from the plant base.
  2. Keep plants well mulched to minimize soil splashing.
  3. Water plants at their base. Avoid wetting the foliage.
  4. Prune off the lowest 3-5 leaf branches once plants are well established and starting to develop fruits. This increases air circulation and slows down infections.
  5. Remove infected leaves during the growing season and remove all infected plant parts at the end of the season.
  6. Apply a synthetic fungicide or an organic fungicide (fixed copper) according to label directions, early in the season, when symptoms appear to slow the spread of the disease. This may be helpful where the disease causes severe blighting each year leading to reduced yields.
  7. Diseased plant parts can be composted if hot composting” techniques are used (pile temperatures should exceed 120° F throughout and piles should be turned two to three times).
Sunscald on tomato fruit

Sunscald is caused by a loss of leaves, usually due to foliar diseases.

Insects pests: several caterpillars such as tomato fruitworm and tobacco/tomato hornworm are common fruit pests, but the damage is seldom severe. By the time signs of the problem are seen it’s too late to anything but compost the infested fruits. Search for and dispose of caterpillars found on foliage and fruit.

Scraping and tunneling damage caused by a yellow-striped armyworm larva.

Scraping and tunneling damage caused by a yellow-striped armyworm larva.

Several different stinkbug species feed on tomatoes. They feed using piercing-sucking mouthparts and leave behind white to yellow corky spots. Stinkbugs are widespread and difficult to handpick and control. Minor damage can be cut out with a sharp knife.

Minor stink bug injury

Minor stink bug injury (left), Southern green stink bug (right)

Pick fruits when they first begin to change color (“breaker stage”) from green. This allows you to get your fruits off the vine before problems strike, greatly increasing the number of usable fruits. Ripen them indoors on a counter (never refrigerate!) I think you’ll find they taste just as good, and have the same desirable texture, as fruits that fully ripen on the vine.

Fruit color over time

Fruit picked when first turning color (left) Four days later (right)

Tomatos with cracks

Concentric cracking (eft) Longitudinal cracking (center) Cuticle cracking (rain checking) (right)

Anthracnose on tomato

Anthracnose (one of several fruit diseases of ripening tomatoes)

Years ago, when I grew tomatoes commercially I sold “seconds” and “thirds” (fruits with splits, nicks, soft spots, and stink bug stings) at greatly reduced prices for canning. Think about what you can quickly do with your “seconds” and “thirds”- salsa, gazpacho, cooked or cold tomato sauce, tomato juice, etc. Above all, share the harvest this summer and pass on your gardening knowledge.

Author: Jon Traunfeld, Extension Specialist

Safe Shopping During COVID-19 at Maryland Farmers’ Markets – Featured Video

Find your favorite fresh fruits and vegetables at the farmers’ markets. Many farmers’ markets in Maryland have opened for the season. Shop safely at the market by wearing a mask, standing 6 feet apart, and bringing your own bags. This video shared information on how to shop safely at the market this season.
Visit to find the nearest farmers’ market to you!


Semi-novice Gardener – Raised Bed Vegetable Garden Adventure (vol. 1)

Hi all, I’m Dan Adler – a part-time employee that works on web and communications at the HGIC.  I work on the website, video creation, posting others’ blog content, newsletters, design, and other web-media technical things.  I’ve been with the HGIC for several years, but I came into the job with close to no gardening experience.  Over the years, I’ve absorbed a certain amount of knowledge by osmosis in the office, but no one mistakes me as a subject-matter expert at the HGIC!

This growing season, I am going to record my raised bed vegetable garden exploits and post several in-progress reports here on the Maryland Grows blog.  I hope to go through my thoughts about decisions we (myself and my wife Krysten) made, where I went to find answers from the HGIC, what worked, and what didn’t.  Hopefully, this blog will help newer gardeners by acting as a bit of a case study on a fairly simple gardening project.  Learn from what I do right, and what I do wrong.

This page on vegetable gardens on the HGIC website has been a good starting point and reference for information along the way.

The project

(This blog post is about a month late; we did the work mentioned here about a month previous to this post.  Future blog posts will catch up and be closer to real-time as they happen).

We live in Baltimore County and have an area that gets full sun which is great for tomatoes and a lot of vegetables.  Last year we bought a couple 4’x8′ raised bed kits from the hardware store.  These are dead-simple to put together with no tools and get the job done for growing, but they are a bit thin and fragile after a while.  At the time, we had calculated buying the kits vs materials to make a similar-sized (but a bit more robust) raised bed, and for us, they were similar. Two things we did to improve it, however, was to staple some chicken wire underneath so digging rodents couldn’t come through the bottom, and we set them down on cardboard to smother the grass underneath.

Birds eye yard view

Picture of our yard area with old raised beds with weeds in them

We had some old soil in there from last year (with weeds in it) already, but this year, we topped it off with a bag of generic hardware store gardening soil in each 4’x4′ square after pulling the weeds.  We definitely expect that we will have to continue pulling weeds.

What we should have done: (You’ll see this a lot moving forward.)  Last year, when we were done growing, we should have protected our soil by either covering the soil with fallen leaves or leaf mulch in the fall, or planting cover crops that are easily mowed or string-trimmed away. This would have staved off weeds and kept more nutrients in our soil.

Let’s get planting

We’ve had some minor success with tomatoes, green beans, peppers, zucchini, and cucumber in the past, so we decided to do similar this year, but hopefully keep a better eye on them and build better support this year.  Previously, we have had cucurbits get eaten by squash vine borers, and our cheapo cone-style tomato support didn’t hold up the plants very well as they got bigger and fuller than they should have (we did not prune diligently).  We’ve also had issues with something eating up our green bean leaves; probably a groundhog.

Planting plan diagram

We bought seedlings from the hardware store and a packet of green bean seeds, and planted them like the picture above.

  • Big plants like tomatoes and the cucurbits that need some space were planted diagonally from each other to maximize the distance.
  • The top-left and bottom-right bed squares are taller and have deeper soils, so the tomatoes were planted in those, as I am assuming they like to go deeper with their roots than our other crops.
  • The bean seeds were planted according to the package’s instructions: 3″ apart in rows, down about 1″ in the soil.
  • We intentionally left spaces in the center of the bean planting and elsewhere in our beds with the plan to add some flowers to bring in pollinators.  Pollinators are essential for food crops, and attracting them is essential. Our area is in the middle of an ocean of grass, so we feel we need to incentivize these good bugs to visit a bit.  Read this blog post on Pollinators and Food Gardens.

We watered every day and added the flowers the next weekend.  The week after that, we have this shot:


The flowers we added were Zinnia and Marigold*.  Krysten also snuck in a celery plant in the bottom right corner as well.

You can see all the vegetables are larger and the beans are coming up well.  We are prepping for some renovation of the area around the garden as you can see, but I will talk about that later.

We have plans to create some fencing to keep rodents out, but that sort of depends on other renovation plans we have to happen first, so we are hoping at this point that the varmints don’t find the garden before we can get the defenses up.

As I’m writing this in hindsight, everything looks peachy and hopeful at this point in time about a month ago.  However, we definitely hit some snags and added some more challenges ourselves pretty soon after this.  Stay tuned, and I’ll fill you in shortly!


Dan Adler
HGIC Web and Communications Manager

*Previously, we had mistakenly labeled the marigolds we added as mums.  Text and images have been updated.