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Garden Q&A: Sneaky barberry seedlings

I have pulled up over 50 barberry seedlings from my yard this year, both green and purplish. (I counted.) I have barberry myself, the purple and yellow varieties, but mine don’t produce berries. My neighbors have the same. So where are all the barberry seedlings coming from?

Barberry is popular now for its colored foliage and because deer don’t eat it — ironic since research shows barberry stands promote more deer ticks and more Lyme disease-infected ticks. While some new barberry varieties are virtually berry-free, many produce some fertile berries which still spread. The worst barberries are older green ones, no longer sold in the trade, but loaded with berries and tough as nails. Their population has exploded in recent years as deer decimate competing native plants. They hybridize with newer varieties, as your purple seedlings attest. Homeowners must look closely to be sure none of these old plants are still around or have sneakily seeded themselves into their landscapes or parks. Barberry seedlings can be coming from any landscape or untended plot near you. Birds distribute the seeds. Barberry is considered invasive in Maryland. Volunteer to remove invasive plants from parks near you.

We are very excited to grow pumpkins this year. How do we know when to pick them? I know they can rot, and I don’t want that to happen to our beautiful pumpkins!

Harvest your pumpkins when they are fully colored and the rind is hard — usually late September to early October. Cut them off the vine using a sharp knife or pruning shears, leaving 3-4 inches of stem still attached to each pumpkin. Handle with care to avoid nicking or bruising. To store your pumpkins until you’re ready to use them, place on a pallet or platform that lets air circulate under them. Keep them dry, out of the sun, and between 50-55 degrees. For longer storage, you can wash them with a weak bleach solution and dry first.

University of Maryland Extension’s Home and Garden Information Center offers free gardening and pest information at extension.umd.edu/hgic. Click “Ask Maryland’s Gardening Experts” to send questions and photos.

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About Mary Ellen Bellusci

Mary Ellen Bellusci is a longtime resident of Baltimore, Maryland... A foodie, traveler, writer, and pursuer of happiness.