I have seen many dime-sized spiders around my house inside and out. They're brown and seem elusive. Are they brown recluses? I am not afraid for myself but for my child. Any advice, or should I put the house on the market?

If you had a brown recluse — and they are not native here — you'd probably never see it because they are truly very, very shy. It is not uncommon for other spiders, however, to enter homes in autumn in search of warmer, drier habitats. Many spiders are valuable predators of pest insects. Sac spiders, which fit your description, feed on dead spiders and dead insects, which make them valuable scavengers. It is best to avoid handling spiders since they will bite in self defense (like just about anything else with a mouth, only much smaller). They are not poisonous, but mouths are not sterile and bites can result in secondary infections. Vacuum a spider up when you see one. Do not apply pesticides in your house. That would be more dangerous to your child.


I planted a dozen asparagus crowns in the spring. I want to transplant two of the plants to a new location. Should I do this in October or November?

You can transplant in the fall when the fronds turn brown or in the early spring. It's easier on the plant, and you, to transplant when there is some moisture in the soil. November is not too late. See the HGIC vegetable crop profiles for our website's Grow It Eat It section.

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.

Digging deeper

Urban forests

What if blood pressure, stress, pulse and blood glucose levels can be lowered, and anti-cancer proteins increased, simply by strolling among trees? What if violence and fatigue could be reduced by living near and interacting with — even just viewing — green environments? An affirmative answer to these questions is the astounding conclusion reached by new research studies. Myriad benefits of urban forests are already well known. Urban forests improve cities by producing oxygen, decreasing air pollution, reducing erosion and holding onto soil. From a purely economic angle, urban forests raise real estate values, save energy costs with their cooling shade and handle stormwater by absorbing, slowing and cleaning it, reducing the need for expensive remedies. Urban green comes in many forms, not only big parks: pocket parks, forested playgrounds and community gardens.

—?Ellen Nibali