How are Maryland gardeners adapting their gardens and green spaces to climate change? We posed this question to our colleagues in the University of Maryland College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and several of them shared examples of everything from composting and food gardening to planting trees and native plants, installing rain gardens, and more.
Action on climate change is needed on a large scale, and our individual actions at home and in our communities all add up too. Check out our Story Map showcasing the variety of ways Marylanders are adapting their green spaces with climate change and sustainability in mind. Then take our quick poll at the end of the Story Map and let us know: Are you doing climate-resilient gardening?
Recently, as I was walking my property and spotting some more returning poison ivy here and there and lamenting the existence and stubbornness of this pesky weed, a novel thought (for me) popped into my head: I know poison ivy is a native plant – does this mean it is right to totally eradicate it?
About five years ago, I had made an attempt to clear a space on my property beyond my fence and into a drainage ditch that was hard to reach, but getting overrun with tree-smothering vines, English ivy, and all matter of problematic brush. After several hard hours of pulling, clipping, snipping, and dragging, I declared the job done. In the next few days, poison ivy rash made its appearance up and down both arms, a bit on my legs, and even a few places on my body I must have rubbed. This took weeks to heal, and I resolved to be more careful in the future. I hadn’t even realized poison ivy was back there.
The next year, I wore pants, got better educated on how to spot it, and kept a better eye out for poison ivy while I worked on maintaining the same space. Poison ivy again got me pretty bad on the arms!
The summer heat is here, and if you are like us, you are taking a break under the shade of a lovely tree. In this episode, we are talking all about shade — why we love it, some tips for gardening in your shady area ( 10:07 ), and a list of native plants ( 16:35 ) that enjoy the shade as much as Mikaela.
We also have our:
Native Plant of the Month – Northern Maidenhair Fern- Adiantum pedatum at 30:35
Bug of the Month – Eastern Beach tiger beetles at 33:50
For more information about the University of Maryland Extension and these topics, please check out the UME Home and Garden Information Center website at https://extension.umd.edu/hgic.
The Garden Thyme Podcast is a monthly podcast 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). Theme Song: By Jason Inc.
Q: What can I use as a summer-blooming shrub, especially if this part of the garden is sunny and somewhat dry? I also sometimes have deer problems.
A: I think St. Johnsworts (Hypericum) are underused, and several species are native here in Maryland, though those might be harder to source. Some of the commonly-grown forms are non-native hybrids, though well-behaved ecologically. (The only locally invasive species, Hypericum perforatum, is fortunately not likely to be sold at a nursery.)
St. Johnsworts bloom anywhere between June and September, prefer direct sun, generally tolerate drought well, and are distasteful to deer. Blooms are nearly always an intense yellow, and some species or cultivars have colorful summer or autumn foliage. A few cultivars have berry-like seeds that ripen by fall and make good bouquet accents. I love the bark on native Hypericum densiflorum – peeling with a smooth underlayer that’s a rich, warm-toned cinnamon-brown that’s especially showy during dormancy.
You’ll find St. Johnsworts sold as both perennials and shrubs, because some species stay low, sprawl like a groundcover, and have stems that aren’t very woody, occasionally dying back in winter as other perennials do. Other species have woody stems and grow to about three or four feet tall and wide. Flowers are loaded with pollen, but no nectar, so butterflies will probably detour while bees and flower flies (predators we like to keep in the garden) will visit. Don’t deadhead developing seed capsules if you want to support Gray Hairstreak butterfly caterpillars, which can use Hypericum as a host plant (among a huge variety of other plants).
Gardening beginners and pros alike can get flummoxed by plant tag terminology. What do words such as full-sun, zone, native and determinate mean? Allow me to elucidate, um, explain. See, even I can make things complicated.
Light is oh-so-important. Matching the right plant to the right lighting is crucial. So tags tell you how much light each plant needs to not just survive, but thrive. If a tag says “full sun” that means the plant needs at least 6 hours of sun a day. If it says “full shade”, that means it wants deep shade. Part sun or part shade means it can handle a bit of both.
In trying to find the perfect lighting, remember that buildings, trees, sheds, and other structures cast shade. So what might be full sun now may be shaded later in the day. It pays to note where sun and shade fall across the days and seasons. Visit your gardens at different times to see where you have true full sun, deep shade, and those grey areas in-between.
Not all plants do well everywhere. Some prefer heat. Others prefer cold. So the USDA, the United States Department of Agriculture, came up with a map divided into numbered strips or zones, where particular plants survive an average low temperature. It’s called the hardiness map.
Here in Washington County, we are in zone 6B which means that any plant with a hardiness range that includes the number 6 should survive our winters. For example, a river birch is labeled with a tag that says “zone 4 to 9,” so it will do well here. A gardenia labeled for zones 8 to 11 will not. So you enjoy it until the weather gets cold.
You may see the word “native” on a plant tag. Native plants naturally occur in an area and have been here since European settlers arrived. They’ve survived hot, dry, cold, and wet years and are tough, naturally resisting drought and disease. Native plants also co-evolved with native insects and wildlife and support them with better nutrition and habitat. So if you want to help pollinators and other wildlife, native plants are a good choice.
If you’re buying tomatoes, you may have noticed the words “determinate” and “indeterminate” on the tags. These are tomato types. Determinate or bush tomatoes max out at 4 feet. They produce their fruit all at once – at a determined time – which makes them great for canning. They also need less staking.
Indeterminate or vining tomatoes keep growing all season and produce fruit over a longer time so you can enjoy them for slicing, cooking, side dishes, and more. They need to be staked.
I hope I’ve simplified some plant tag terms. No get thee to a garden center and check out some plants!
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.
This article was previously published by Herald-Mail Media.
With the planting season upon us, many of us are starting to think about what flowers may be the best for our gardens and pollinators. We may have started to look into floral mixes or even flower starts, but probably there are too many choices and now we’re overwhelmed and don’t know what to do. In previous posts, we talked about the importance of diverse floral choices and how appropriate native species are when choosing plants for pollinators. There is, however, an extra twist that is becoming more mainstream in this story and today I want to talk about it. Let’s chat about local ecotypes, what they are, what they contribute, and how to get them (and how to not get them).
What are local ecotypes?
In a few words, local ecotypes are native plant species that have a genetic background typical for the local region and adapted to it. I know, there were a lot of technical words in that sentence, so let me break it down to make it easier to understand.
Like all organisms, plants have lineages that reflect their ancestry. In the same way that we as humans are genetically more closely related to members of our own family than to those of other families, plant populations are also more closely related to other plants of the same species that live close to them. From a genetic point of view, this means that plants that come from regions close to each other will tend to have more similar genetic characteristics than those from regions far apart from each other. This genetic makeup specific to a given region is what we call broadly a local genotype.
Nothing like starting out a blog with a cliché, right? But this perfectly sums up one reason to change from a monotypic lawn to a mix of native plants. Instead of looking out at a sea of sameness, the diversity of colors, sizes, and shapes of plants offer a more pleasing landscape to view. And, bonus points, more and different kinds of plants attract more and different kinds of butterflies, birds, and beneficial wildlife!
A do-it-yourself garden is harder but more fulfilling
Once you figure out that you do want more variety of plants instead of lawn in your yard, the real planning begins. But, it can be hard to know where to start – do you just chop up the lawn and start planting? How much will it cost? What’s the maintenance on these plants? What about soil conditions? Don’t worry! There are some really good online tips for beginners. To sum mine up: start small, don’t overthink it, and stick to things you like looking at.
For example, my sister moved into a small house with a fenced backyard. She knew she wanted to avoid the pain of mowing. She knew she wanted low-maintenance, flowering plants. And since she’s a redhead, she knew what colors she liked (hint: little to no red flowers). The first thing we did was start tracking the sun, in both the front and back yards. Each month over the winter, we took a picture in the morning, at noon, and in the evening. We also got started on the paths needed through the garden areas.