Mid-Shore STEM Festival

The inaugural Mid-Shore STEM Festival will be held on Saturday, November 4th at the Eastern Shore Higher Education Center, on the Chesapeake College campus in Wye Mills. The event will be held rain or shine from 10 am – 2 pm and is free and open to the public.

The Mid-Shore STEM Festival is being hosted by the University of Maryland Extension 4-H Program and is focused on providing hands-on science, technology, engineering, and math learning for youth of all ages and their families. Activities will include: interactive displays and activities, tours, and demonstrations. Youth can learn about DNA, soil, plants, agriculture, food science, environmental science, robotics, insects, and much more. Also, there will be tours of Chesapeake College and a special K-9 demonstration from 12:30-1:00 that you do not want to miss! And, lunch and refreshments will be available for purchase.

Bring your kids to participate during the Maryland Science Festival here on the mid-shore on November 4th for a fun science-filled day! For more information, please contact Navonne Owen, Dorchester County 4-H, at nowen@umd.edu or (410) 228-8800. This is an equal opportunity and equal access program.

Queen Anne’s County Master Gardeners Announce Bay-Wise Landscape Consultations

Homes on the Eastern Shore are within a half mile of a stream or other waterway flowing into the Chesapeake Bay. Creating an attractive yard is important to all of us, but how we do it can make a huge difference in property value and environmental impact. We all contribute–knowingly or unknowingly—to run-off, seepage, and airborne pollutants that affect the health of the Bay. Critical awareness of the environmental effect of our landscape choices and practices underlies the University of Maryland Extension Bay-Wise Master Gardener program.

pictured L-R: Master Gardener Jane Smith, Master Gardener Cindy Riegel, homeowner Laura Rocco, Master Gardener Betty McAtee, and Master Gardener Joyce Anderson.

The Queen Anne’s County Master Gardeners’ Bay-Wise program kicks off the 2017 season of Bay-Wise landscape consultations. Master Gardeners, are volunteers who are trained by the University of Maryland Extension, will come to your home or business to evaluate your property. They can answer landscape and gardening questions and offer advice on sound environmental practices. This is a free service sponsored through the University of Maryland’s Extension office. Home owners and businesses are encouraged to schedule a consultation.

Call or email the University of Maryland Extension Queen Anne’s County Master Gardener Coordinator, Rachel Rhodes, at 410-758-0166 or rjrhodes@umd.edu to initiate a consultation on your property. A Bay-Wise trained Master Gardener will then contact you to arrange a convenient date and time to meet with you at your property. A consultation usually takes about one to two hours, depending on the size and complexity of your yard. Consultations focus on practices of healthy lawn maintenance, storm water management, insect and disease control, composting waste, and selecting native plants and trees that enhance your property with minimum upkeep.  You are welcome to request advice about flower, fruit, and vegetable beds that beautify your yard and provide friendly habitat for wildlife like songbirds, butterflies, bees, and humming birds.

Complimentary Bay-Wise signs are given homeowners and businesses that demonstrate sound Bay-Wise practices. The University of Maryland Extension Master Gardeners hope to reach even more homeowners this season. Advice on improving your landscape, while helping the environment and saving time and money, is only a phone call away.  For further information on the Bay-Wise Program and other environmentally sound practices, please visit www.extension.umd.edu/baywise or see us on Facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/QueenAnnesCountyMasterGardeners

University of Maryland Extension programs are open to all people and will not discriminate against anyone because of race, age, sex, color, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, religion, ancestry, or national origin, marital status, genetic information, or political affiliation, or gender identity and expression.

Ask the Plant & Pest Professor: Cherry Laurels, Toadstools, & Harlequin Bugs

“Ask the Plant and Pest Professor” is compiled from phone and email questions asked of the Home and Garden Information Center (HGIC), part of University of Maryland Extension, an educational outreach of the University of Maryland.

Question #1: I have established cherry laurels in a landscape bed in the front of my house. They have always been very healthy until this summer when I began to notice some branches that have brown leaves. Upon closer examination I noticed this white-fungus looking stuff on these stems. I am concerned that this will spread and cause further damage. What is this and what can I do to stop it?

Answer#1: We have been hearing from many homeowners with similar concerns about their cherry laurels. What you are noticing is not a fungus but a type of scale insect called white prunicola scale. This is an insect that sucks sap from twigs and branches. This can cause dieback, which is usually preceded by leaf yellowing, browning and premature leaf drop. The white substance you describe is the covering that is cast off by the male scales. If you look closely you may see round, orange objects which are the egg-bearing females. To control this pest prune out any dead or heavily infested branches. Then use a soft brush dipped in water to scrape off the remaining scale, as best you can. Spray with a horticultural oil, according to label directions, in the dormant season (November – March) or after the eggs hatch and the crawlers are present (this is when the insect is the most vulnerable to sprays). The timing for this is June, July or September.

Question #2: Why do I have toadstools or white mushrooms in my lawn? I first noticed them when it began to warm up in the spring, but I still see them. What can I do to get rid of these mushrooms?

Answer #2: A mushroom is the spore-bearing or fruiting structure of a fungus. The fungus feeds on decaying wood buried in the soil. The source of organic matter can be dead tree roots, buried logs, stumps or even buried wood or lumber. When conditions are right these fruiting bodies form. The mushrooms are an important part of the natural world. They are not harming your lawn. There really is not a practical or permanent way to prevent them. If needed you can rake them up and dispose of them.

Question #3: I garden every year but the last several years our organic vegetable garden has been infested with harlequin bugs. I even stopped growing most of the greens these bugs love. Word around the community garden is that gardeners have not been having problems with them this summer. I’d like to plant cabbage and kale again soon do you think it is safe to do so?

Answer #3: Insect populations ebb and flow and can be difficult to predict. In general we are getting fewer questions about garden pests this season. However, you should still be prepared just in case you see them. You can find detailed information about preventing and controlling harlequin bugs on the “Grow It Eat It” section of our website. Also look for the photo of the egg cases. If you should find any on your plants you should crush them to prevent large populations from building up.

To ask a home gardening or pest control question or for other help, go to http://extension.umd.edu/hgic Or phone HGIC at 1-800-342-2507, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Ask the Plant & Pest Professor: Gummosis, Paper Wasps, & Patience!

“Ask the Plant and Pest Professor” is compiled from phone and email questions asked the Home and Garden Information Center (HGIC), part of University of Maryland Extension, an educational outreach of the University of Maryland.

Question #1: I have a weeping cherry tree that has some holes in the trunk. Sap is dripping out of them and is even dripping to the ground. So far the tree looks pretty healthy. Could this be some sort of insect infestation and what can I do to help the tree? This tree has been in my front yard since I bought my house many years ago.

Answer#1: The oozing sap is called ‘gummosis’ and generally happens any time an injury occurs to the bark of a tree. Gummosis can be caused by many factors such as insects, mechanical damage, diseases, or weather. Pushing out sap is the trees attempt to protect itself by flushing out pathogens or insects. Ornamental cherries are prone to both borers, which are insects that bore into the tree, and canker diseases. Both of these conditions are serious and unfortunately can’t be cured once they attack the trunk of a tree. However, in many cases the tree continues to do okay and can remain viable for a few years. If the tree has borers or a canker disease it will start losing branches and then will eventually have to be removed. These trees are generally not long-lived and have an average lifespan of about 25 years. For additional information on ornamental fruit trees, go to our website and look for publication HG 93 IPM Series: Ornamental Fruit Trees found under ‘publications’.

Question #2: In the corner of the ceiling on my front porch there is a papery, honeycomb like, circular shaped nest. I see paper wasps flying in and out of it. How concerned should I be about paper wasps and should I do something to get rid of them?

Answer #2: Paper wasps tend to be less aggressive and threatening than yellowjackets. The nests are usually fairly small, only a few inches in diameter, so they do not contain as large a number of wasps as found in yellowjacket nests. But if the nest is in a frequently used area, control is warranted because they will sting if they feel threatened. Active nests can be sprayed with a registered wasp and hornet spray. Look for one that is labeled as non-staining and can be sprayed from a distance. Treat in the evening or early morning. Paper wasp nests located in non-frequented areas should be left alone. The wasps prey on caterpillars and are considered to be beneficial.

Question #3: My husband and I planted 4 beefsteak tomato plants in late April. They are producing tomatoes but none are turning red. Last year at this time we were already eating vine ripened tomatoes. What is going on?

Answer #3: Patience may be the key word this year. Tomatoes and some other warm-season vegetables are behind their normal schedule. In April, soils were not warm enough for tomato plants to grow. Root growth does not occur until soil temperatures reach about 65 degrees F. Do not fret there is still plenty of time for your tomatoes to ripen. Gardeners need to be flexible in their expectations because every year is a different year in the garden.

To ask a home gardening or pest control question or for other help, go to http://extension.umd.edu/hgic Or phone HGIC at 1-800-342-2507, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Ask the Plant & Pest Professor: Plant Pests & Watering Tips

“Ask the Plant and Pest Professor” is compiled from phone and email questions asked the Home and Garden Information Center (HGIC), part of University of Maryland Extension, an educational outreach of the University of Maryland.

Question #1: My three year old Concord grape vine has lots of brown spots on the leaves. The fruit is also turning black and wrinkly like a raisin. What should I do? Are there any natural products I can spray them with?

Answer #1: Most likely your grape vine is infected with black rot, a fungal disease. This is a very common disease problem on grapes. Unfortunately it is already too late to treat the disease this season. Right now sanitation is important. All the diseased grapes, including the grapes and leaves that have fallen to the ground should be disposed of. The disease will not kill the vine, but next season you will need to begin a spray program to prevent this from happening again. Prune the vine in the dormant season and spray using a registered fungicide as soon as new growth begins to develop next spring. Sulfur and Bordeaux mixture are the organic options. Spray to protect the foliage before a rain event.

Question #2: What can I use to kill insects in my lawn that is safe to use around pets and children?

Answer #2: Other than grub prevention, which we only recommend in cases where a lawn has a history of grub problems, we do not recommend applying an insecticide to control insects in lawns. Many, if not most, of the insects in your lawn are beneficial and contribute to the overall health of your lawn and the soil beneath it. For example, ants are predators of termites, helping to keep their population down. Tall fescue lawns have few insect problems that cause any significant damage. If you suspect you have an insect problem in your lawn call our gardening hotline or send a question to us through our website.

Question #3: I am a beginner vegetable gardener and have a pretty basic question. What is the best way to water a vegetable garden and how much water should I give my plants?

Answer #3: Vegetables planted in average well-drained soil require about an inch of water per week from rainfall or irrigation (equal to about 62 gallons of water per 100 square). Gardens in sandy soil will require a bit more than that in the height of the growing season. Water is crucial during seed germination, after planting transplants, and during flower and fruit production. Avoid overhead and frequent shallow watering which encourages plant diseases and a shallow root system. Soaker hoses and drip irrigation are the most efficient means of watering. They provide water right to the root system and minimize water usage. When using a hose, use a wand attachment so the water can be directed under the foliage directly to the roots. Water as early in the day as possible to allow the foliage to dry before evening. Add compost or other types of organic matter to increase the water holding capacity of the soil and mulch to conserve soil moisture.

To ask a home gardening or pest control question or for other help, go to http://extension.umd.edu/hgic Or phone HGIC at 1-800-342-2507, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Ask the Plant & Pest Professor: Plant and Tree Disease Diagnosis

“Ask the Plant and Pest Professor” is compiled from phone and email questions asked the Home and Garden Information Center (HGIC), part of University of Maryland Extension, an educational outreach of the University of Maryland.

Question #1: Something is eating the leaves of my cherry laurels. The leaves are riddled with tiny holes. Perhaps it is some type of caterpillar. What can I do to stop this damage?

Answer #1: Cherry laurels are susceptible to many leaf spot diseases. One is commonly called ‘shot hole’ because the infected tissue dries up and falls out causing the tiny holes you describe. Mild, wet spring and early summer weather promotes this leaf spot. Rake up and dispose of infected leaves that fall off the plants. The disease is not serious but causes cosmetic damage. Spraying with a fungicide is not practical as the spraying regiment begins when the new leaves emerge and continues every two weeks or so throughout the summer.

Question #2: I have a fig tree that is about 15 years old and about 15 feet tall. It was very healthy and I never had any problems with it. In fact, last summer it produced bushels of figs. This spring the branches are totally brown and they break off easily. It didn’t leaf out at all and seems completely dead. Is there any chance that it could recover from the roots or should we consider it a loss?

Answer #2: Many calls and email questions (you can send us questions through our website) have been coming into our office concerning fig trees. The harsh winter has caused severe die back as figs are marginally hardy in Maryland. If you do not see any new growth from the branches or the base of the tree it is most likely dead. If the tree produces new growth from the base in the next few weeks, remove the dead branches and nurture the emerging young shoots. It will take at least until next summer for the tree to produce a crop of figs. Provide winter protection to the new shoots in December.

Question #3: Two years ago my silver maple lost a limb in a storm and left a large opening in the side of the tree. Now I am seeing carpenter ants crawling up and down the tree near where the damage is. What can I do to treat the tree so the carpenter ants do not cause further problems?

Answer#3: Carpenter ant activity in your tree can be an indication that your maple has some type of rot. Carpenter ants do not target healthy trees. The ants are a secondary problem and an indication that you should have the tree looked at by a certified arborist. The major concern for the tree is that there may be internal decay. This can be a serious problem and even a reason to have the tree removed.

To ask a home gardening or pest control question or for other help, go to http://extension.umd.edu/hgic Or phone HGIC at 1-800-342-2507, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Ask the Plant & Pest Professor: Shrubbery, Carpenter Bees, & Peonies

“Ask the Plant and Pest Professor” is compiled from phone and email questions asked the Home and Garden Information Center (HGIC), part of University of Maryland Extension, an educational outreach of the University of Maryland.

Question #1: My hydrangea doesn’t appear to be developing new leaves or is showing any signs of new growth along the stems. I do see some new growth coming from the bottom of the shrub but not much. Did the bad winter affect it? Do you think it will bloom this summer?

Answer #1: The severe winter weather caused many trees and shrubs to experience winter dieback. In many cases, the plants are dead, while others will recover. It sounds like the stems of your hydrangea died back but it is now coming back from the base or crown. This can be a slow process and there is a possibility that it will not bloom this summer. Especially so if you do not have a hydrangea that blooms on both old and new wood like Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Endless Summer’. Water the shrub should we experience a hot, dry summer and autumn. Also prune out the dead stems.

Question #2: Every year around this time we have carpenter bees flying around the wooden post that supports our mailbox. They frighten me when I open the box to get our mail. The mailman has not said anything to me about this but I do not want him or myself to get stung. Is there something I can do to prevent this from happening each year?

Answer#2: In April/May female carpenter bees are looking for suitable nest sites. They bore holes into unpainted, weathered wood surfaces. Males patrol close to the nests to drive away what they perceive as a threat. They fly aggressively towards intruders but they do not have the ability to sting. Females rarely sting and would only do so if they felt threatened. To reduce carpenter bee activity around your home paint wood surfaces with polyurethane or oil-based paint. Maintaining sound, finished wood surfaces is the best way to reduce carpenter bee damage. For additional information, including control, use the search box on the HGIC website given below.

Question #3: I bought several bags of peony roots at a local big box store and have now read online that fall is the best time to plant. Should I hold on to them until September/October to plant them then?

Answer #3: Indeed, the best time to plant bare-root plants or to transplant peonies is the fall. Container grown plants can be planted in the early spring. However, you should plant the peonies now because they will not store well until the fall. Plant in full sun for best bloom in rich, well-drained soil. Do not plant too deeply, crowns should be no deeper than 1-2 inches below the ground. Peony plants do not have to be dug up and divided often. They can be left undisturbed for 10-20 years.

To ask a home gardening or pest control question or for other help, go to http://extension.umd.edu/hgic Or phone HGIC at 1-800-342-2507, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Ask the Plant & Pest Professor: Bird Behavior, Nuisance Ants, & Organic Vegetable Transplants

“Ask the Plant and Pest Professor” is compiled from phone and email questions asked the Home and Garden Information Center (HGIC), part of University of Maryland Extension, an educational outreach of the University of Maryland.

Question #1: Why would a robin fly into the glass of my living room windows? This has been happening for the past two weeks or so. It happens during the day and early evening. He flies away when I go outside but then he starts up again and it goes on for at least twenty minutes. Poor thing I do not want him to hurt himself. Do you have any idea why he would be doing this? Except for the odd bird flying into a window in the past, this is new to us.

Answer #1: What you describe is a fairly common behavior for territorial bird species like, robins, sparrows and cardinals that nest close to houses. It generally occurs in spring. Both males and females do this as they attempt to thwart possible competitors or birds they view as a threat to their young. They see their reflection in your window and assume it is a bird they need drive away which leads them to fly into the glass. You can prevent this temporarily by covering the outside of the window with bird netting or fabric so their reflection is no longer visible to them. Or hang shiny objects like cd discs or Mylar tape in front of the window. There are also semi-transparent stickers sold to prevent birds from flying into windows. This behavior is exhausting for the bird but is usually not lethal.

Question #2: Every spring I have a problem with small ants entering our sunroom. There really is no food in there for them and we seem to have this problem only at this time of the year. Why does this happen and what can we do to stop it?

Answer #2: There are many species of ants that become a nuisance in homes in the spring. They are scouting for food and water sources. Check for entry points and replace the caulking and weather-stripping around windows, doors, and utilities to prevent them from getting in. Resist the temptation to use aerosol insecticides. Use gel-based ant baits instead. They are available at home and garden centers or hardware stores. The bait is taken back to the nest and distributed to the occupants. Don’t clean up around the traps when using ant baits, because it will actually keep the ants from going into them. Watch the ants as they go to and from the area, this may help determine where they are coming from. Be patient as this method of control takes a little time to work.

Question #3: I wish to buy organic vegetable transplants? Where would I find some and how will I know that they are grown organically. Also what vegetable cultivars do you recommend?

Answer #3: Check at your local farmers market to see if they are selling transplants. Other sources would be organic grocery stores or even a garden center. Ask how they have been grown and if the plants were started from untreated seeds. Also ask if the plants were treated with any insecticides or fungicides. Consider growing your own transplant in the future if you cannot find sources. We have a publication on recommended vegetable cultivars (HG70). Look for it on the HGIC website under ‘information library’ and publications.

To ask a home gardening or pest control question or for other help, go to http://extension.umd.edu/hgic Or phone HGIC at 1-800-342-2507, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Ask the Plant & Pest Professor: Soil Tests, Lilacs, & Attracting Birds

“Ask the Plant and Pest Professor” is compiled from phone and email questions asked the Home and Garden Information Center (HGIC), part of University of Maryland Extension, an educational outreach of the University of Maryland.

Question #1: I was hoping you could help me understand the process of soil testing. My neighbor told me that the University of Maryland tested his soil a few years ago. I went on your website and found the publication on the subject but it looks like all of the labs are out of state. I really want to test the soil in my vegetable garden before I plant. Can you help?

Answer#1: The University of Maryland soil testing lab closed many years ago. As you mentioned we have lots of information on our website about soil testing. When you are on the home page look for the photo of a man’s hand holding a handful of soil. Watch the video as it helps to clarify the process. Under resources look at HG 110 and HG 110a (list of recommended labs). The lab’s website will explain how to take a sample and will provide a submittal form for you to print off. Your sample can be mailed to the lab in a self-closing plastic bag. Please contact us again if need help interpreting the results.

Question #2: Many years ago I planted an old fashioned lilac. It appears healthy but it has not bloomed well for the last couple of years. I asked at a garden center and was told they like alkaline soil and to use a fertilizer high in phosphorus. Can you provide any more information? I really miss the flowers.

Answer #2: There are many species and cultivars of lilac and we do not know which one you are referring to. The last few years we have had questions from homeowners very similar to yours. Ruling out other reasons why lilacs do not bloom which include, too much shade (planting sites can become shadier over time), too much nitrogen fertilizer (which promotes leaf growth and not flowers), improper pruning (pruning in summer, fall or winter removes flower buds), the most likely reason is that lilacs prefer cold winters. With the exception of this year our winters have been warmer than normal. So chances are good that your lilac will bloom well for you this spring. We do not recommend applying fertilizing but a layer of compost around the root zone would be helpful.

Question #3: We moved into a senior garden apartment complex this winter and are not allowed to put out bird feeders. Our apartment is on the first floor and I have an area out back where I can plant flowers or some shrubs. Would you have any suggestions of something I can plant to attract the birds?

Answer #3: A water source really attracts birds to a landscape. Are you allowed to put up a bird bath? It does not have to be large or fancy. A large saucer (you can even use one that is made to be placed under a container) placed on the ground would work. Keep it filled with fresh water. Change the water on a regular basis in the summer to prevent mosquitoes. Some perennials that attract birds are Coreopsis, Liatris spicata (gayflower), Echinacea (coneflower) and Rudbeckia (black-eyed Susan). It is best to plant a group of three or more. Birds love to feed on the berries of many shrubs. Some examples include, American cranberry viburnum, winterberry holly (you need a male and a female plant to produce berries), chokeberry, and blueberries which need well-drained, acidic soil.

To ask a home gardening or pest control question or for other help, go to extension.umd.edu/hgic  Or phone HGIC at 1-800-342-2507, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Ask the Plant & Pest Professor: Planting Schedules, Peach Trees, & Lawns

“Ask the Plant and Pest Professor” is compiled from phone and email questions asked the Home and Garden Information Center (HGIC), part of University of Maryland Extension, an educational outreach of the University of Maryland.

Question #1: Will the recent cold weather affect planting dates for early spring vegetables? I am specifically asking about spinach and peas. I usually start them directly in the ground around the middle of March. If I should not be planting them at this time can you tell me how I will know when it is safe to put them in the ground?

Answer #1: We are coming to the end of a very cold, wet winter and because of this gardeners may need to be a little patient. Maryland gardeners learn over time that seasons vary from year to year and they should become familiar with the microclimates in their own gardens. For a large portion of the state it is still too early to be planting seeds in the ground. Soils are much too cold and wet which causes seeds to rot. Soil temperatures need to be about 45 degrees F before seeds should be planted. Air temperatures need to be in the 60 degree F range for at least a few days for this to happen. Also it is not advisable to work soil that is too wet. Press a small ball of soil in your hand. If it crumbles and breaks into smaller clumps the soil is workable but if it stays tight like a ball it is too wet and you need to wait until it dries out some. But do not fret we still have a long growing season ahead of us.

Question #2 I was looking to buy a peach tree or two for my yard this year. First, can peach trees grow and produce well in Maryland? Second, if they can, which ones do you recommend? I looked through some catalogs and there are so many to choose from. I am looking for one that produces peaches that I can eat fresh off the tree.

Answer #2: Peach trees are hardy in Maryland but they are one of the hardest tree fruits for a homeowner to grow. They are plagued by insect and disease problems, especially brown rot. The brown marmorated stink bug has also targeted Maryland peaches. The first year or so you could probably get away with not spraying the trees for pests and diseases but in following years a strict spray schedule needs to be followed. Our advice would be is to plant small fruits like berries and blueberries that can be grown organically. But if you have your heart set on fruit trees consider fig, Asian pear or sour cherries because they have fewer pest problems. Even so you probably will not get a consistent crop year after year. On our website look under ‘information library’ and then ‘publications’ for HG 68 Getting Started With Small Fruits and HG 69 Getting Started With Tree Fruits.

Question #3: We did not get a chance to do any lawn renovation in the fall. Last summer we had some yellow spots that have died out over the winter. Is there something we can do now to improve our lawn for this season?

Answer#3: The fall is the best time for major lawn renovation projects in Maryland. However, from your question it sounds like you just need to do some overseeding and filling in of bare spots. You should do this as soon as you can work the soil. It is best to seed in early spring, by mid-April. Before seeding rake away the dead grass to expose the soil. You can add a thin layer of topsoil or compost to the area and scratch it into the area. Seed with turf type tall fescue seed. This grass species grows best in Maryland’s climate. After seeding, tamp the seed down with the end of a metal rake. Cover with straw or a very light covering (you should be able to see the seeds) of topsoil or compost. The seeds should germinate in about two-three weeks.