Halloween is a ways away, but pumpkins are ahead of schedule

Garden Q&A

  • This shrub blooms in late summer and early fall, when little else does.
This shrub blooms in late summer and early fall, when little… (Courtesy of Marian Hengemihle,…)
September 11, 2014|By Ellen Nibali | For The Baltimore Sun

My pumpkins turned orange in August! How can I make sure they survive until Halloween?

Pumpkins are coloring ahead of schedule by about three weeks this year because of the cool summer. When the rind is hard, cut them from the vine, leaving 3 to 4 inches of stem attached to the pumpkin. Avoid nicks or bruises. When they ripen early, it's helpful to wash them with a weak bleach solution (1 tablespoon bleach to 1 pint water) and rinse before storing them inside on a pallet or platform that allows air to circulate around the fruit.

My front yard looks like a UFO landed. I killed a 40-foot-diameter circle of Bermuda grass in my front lawn so I could reseed in September, but I'm afraid I used an extended-control Roundup product when I meant to use regular Roundup. Am I going to have this crop circle all winter? When can I reseed? I threw away the container.

There are many Roundup products now that contain herbicides in addition to glyphosate. Consumers need to read the label very carefully before applying anything. What used to be safe in vegetable gardens, for instance, is no longer safe. The product you mistakenly used kills vegetation and prevents growth for months past the time to plant grass seed in the fall. Mulch your circle to prevent erosion. Reseed in the spring and be prepared to lose some of that immature grass to summer heat and drought. Overseed next fall. This winter, try a holiday display in the middle of that circle.

University of Maryland Extension's Home and Garden Information Center offers free gardening and pest information. Call 800-342-2507 or send a question to its website at extension.umd.edu/hgic.

Plant of the week

Groundsel bush, high-tide bush, sea myrtle

Baccharis halimifolia

In late summer/early fall, when little else is in bloom, this multistemmed shrub takes center stage in your landscape. From September into October, female plants produce fluffy, white seed heads resembling silvery paintbrushes above their gray-green, coarsely toothed foliage. Groundsel bush makes a nice backdrop for fall-blooming asters and goldenrods, and its salt tolerance is especially appreciated by seaside gardeners. Growing about 6-12 feet high and wide with a rounded, airy habit, this native deserves a spot in naturalized landscapes and wetlands, or as an accent in an ornamental bed. It prefers moist soils in full sun to partial shade, but is drought-tolerant once established. This shrub can get leggy and responds well to pruning in the spring. Deer do not bother it.

—Marian Hengemihle

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