The mile-a-minute vine invades Maryland

Backyard Q&A

September 20, 1998

Q.I've discovered a horrible weedy vine with lots of little thorns growing in my back yard, which borders some woods. I don't know where it came from. It's making pretty blue berries now. What is it and how do I get rid of it?

A. You're seeing mile-a-minute vine, also known as tear-a-thumb (Polyganum perfoliatum). This is a very invasive imported weed that is spreading throughout Central Maryland.

The leaves are triangular, and the stems and leaves are covered with thorns. Mile-a-minute is a poorly rooted annual that can grow 20 feet to 25 feet in one season. It's important to control this weed before the seeds develop. (Animals spread the seeds after eating the fruits.)

A nonselective herbicide can be used at this time, or you can simply hand-pull young plants in the spring.

Q. I'm interesting in planting small trees, shrubs and vines tha can add fall color to my landscape. Where do I start?

A. Start by visiting botanical gardens and nurseries and checking out plant books in your local library and bookstores. There you'll find an abundance of information, ideas and guidance. Also, check to see what looks interesting in your neighborhood.

Among fall-color plants that are both attractive and well-adapted to this area are blue-berry, beauty bush, porcelain berry, witch hazel, viburnums and pyracantha.

Q. I'm bracing for the ladybug invasion. I love to see them in m garden but cringe at the thought of their over-wintering in my basement. What's an organic gardener to do?

A.Close off openings around doors, windows, screens and vents, and seal up any other openings around your foundation. Gently sweep up any intruders and carry them outdoors to a protected area.

This Week's Checklist

* Plant trees and shrubs now. The mild days and cool nights will give them a good chance to get established before winter.

* Take a soil sample from areas of your landscape that have not been tested in the past three years. Be prepared to apply lime and organic matter according to test results.

Garden tips are provided by the Home and Garden Informatio Center of the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Maryland. For additional information on these questions, or if you have questions of your own, call the center's hot line at 800-342-2507, or visit its Web site at www.agnr.umd.edu/users/hgic.

Pub Date: 9/20/98

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