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Garden Q&A: Get rid of those patches of honeysuckle

We’ve had a lot of Lyme disease in my neighborhood. Should I clear the understory in the woods behind my house? The main shrub there has flowers that remind me of honeysuckle. Does wildlife need this? I’d like to save native plants, but need to save us first!

This is bush honeysuckle, a foreign invasive shrub even more implicated in the spread of Lyme disease than barberry. In bush honeysuckle patches, the risk of ticks infected by Lyme is 10 times greater than normal. (It’s 8.8 times higher in barberry stands, though research suggests the cause of infected tick increase is different for the two shrub species.) By all means, cut down the honeysuckle shrub, especially before its innumerable berries appear and spread it further. Recut or spray any regrowth. Debris can be taken off site or left to decompose. Create wide paths through your wooded areas so you can safely walk without brushing against plants. When not in flower, bush honeysuckle is still fairly easy to identify by its opposite smooth-edged leaves. Send us photos of any other plants you need identified to determine whether they are native or should go.

I planted green bean seeds through landscape fabric (which I use throughout the garden). Then I covered them with floating row cover anchored with long boards and bricks. Now leaves have holes and chewing on the edge. Damage is extensive. What is eating my plants, and how can I control them? I prefer organic controls.

Bet you don’t have a single weed! But it does sound as if you may have slugs. They flourish in moist environments, and recent rain is super for them. During the day, slugs hide to escape heat and drying sun rays. Check under the boards and scrape them off. Roll back the landscape fabric temporarily, if practical, to let the area dry. If slugs are observed, you can also lightly cultivate soil around plants to expose slug eggs. Maintain the row cover, which is so good at keeping out Mexican bean beetles and other pests. Continue to monitor under the boards or switch to landscape staples to hold down the landscape fabric. You can spray slugs with vinegar or use commercial products containing iron phosphate. Search “slugs” on the HGIC website for more help.

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.