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Garden Q&A: What killed this tree?

These things like spaghetti pasta were sticking out of our tree that suddenly died. They crumbled when I touched them. Did they attack the tree and kill it?

These are sawdust tubes pushed out by ambrosia beetles as they bore into your tree. The tubes are rarely seen this time of year. However, because of abnormal rainfall, some trees are producing ethyl alcohol, a reaction to stress. Alcohol production signals ambrosia beetles to attack. The beetles introduce a fungi into the tree, which clogs up its xylem. Since your tree is already dead, it’s hard to say exactly what killed it. Its roots may have rotted or drowned from standing water or saturated, poorly draining soil. The ambrosia beetles may have merely pushed it over the edge. The beetles are not necessarily a death sentence. When numbers are low and a tree is fairly healthy, a tree can recover.

How does one reclaim growing spaces after an excessively wet summer? While being careful not to work my very wet garden, invasive vines, grasses and perennial weeds have nearly take over my veggie garden and landscape.

Put down boards to distribute your weight, so you can work in the garden a bit sooner. This helps reduce soil compaction. First, go after plants that are going to seed. Pull them or cut off the portion with seeds. Bag and dispose. Cut vines and perennials at ground level or pull them up when weeding becomes possible. Cover the area with 3-4 sections of newspaper, covered by an organic mulch, such as shredded tree leaves. You may want to trench, regrade or create barriers to excess runoff during the off season.

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.