Garden Q&a

GARDEN Q&A

March 26, 2009|By Ellen Nibali and Jon Traunfeld

I have a huge wasp nest in my tree that I didn't see until the leaves fell. I'm worried about the wasps swarming out in spring.

Those roundish gray papery nests are built primarily by bald-faced hornets, black and white native wasps. They are voracious predators of caterpillars, spiders, grubs and many pest insects, which they feed to their young. Often their nests go unnoticed unless disturbed by mowing or commotion. Although one nest can have hundreds of wasps, all workers die in winter and only queens survive. Queens hibernate elsewhere and start a new nest from scratch in spring. Weather, birds and animals break down the old nest. It does not harm the tree.

Chickweed has erupted in my flower beds in huge green masses. Help!

Chickweed is what's known as a cool-season annual. It must regrow from seed each year, and it starts this in the fall, not the spring. This means that by the time early spring arrives, it has already established itself and is ready to explode with growth. Fortunately, it does not have much root and can be removed by hand without too much effort. You can use a broad-leaf herbicide, but read the label carefully. If applied among desired plants, the herbicide may kill them, too. This fall, keep the area mulched to prevent chickweed seed from sprouting.

Ellen Nibali, a horticulture consultant, works at Maryland Cooperative Extension's Home and Garden Information Center, and Jon Traunfeld is the director of the Home and Garden Information Center. The center offers free gardening information. Call 800-342-2507 or e-mail plant and pest questions at the Web site hgic.umd.edu.

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