Those tiny `balls' are galls

Garden Q&A

October 27, 2007|By Ellen Nibali and David Clement

Tiny "balls" are falling from our trees all over my deck and sidewalk. Please advise.

Those BB-size galls start when wasps in the Cynipidae family lay their eggs in leaves or twigs. As larvae feed, galls grow. This is the defensive mechanism of the tree. Each type of wasp causes a distinctively shaped gall.

Galls are almost always harmless, but they don't usually drop out of leaves. This year, reported "rain" of cynipid galls may be yet another result of our extreme drought. Just sweep or hose them away.

I am considering a permanent fence to keep out deer. I heard that a white-tail deer can jump a 10-foot fence. How much of a deterrent would a solid wooden fence 6 feet high make?

A 10-foot fence will keep out any but the most talented deer. A 6-foot fence will have some deterrent qualities, especially when the deer can't see what's on the other side or when the enclosed area is small or offers no landing area.

A dog can be the best repellent. Also, many people find that it is easier to plant what deer won't eat. We offer a list of deer-resistant plants on our Web site.


Remove and dispose of all rotted or fallen fruits and vegetables to reduce disease inoculum and insect pests that will overwinter and attack next spring.

Don't panic when older leaves or needles drop from rhododendrons and other evergreens. This is normal for this time of year.

Ellen Nibali, horticulture consultant, works at Maryland Cooperative Extension's Home and Garden Information Center, and David Clement is the regional specialist. The center offers Maryland residents free gardening information. Call the center's "hotline" at 800-342-2507 (8 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday-Friday) or e-mail plant and pest questions through the Send a Question feature at

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