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Home-growing Solutions

By Terp Staff


Illustration by Margaret Hall

Illustration by Margaret Hall

For 25 years, the Home and Garden Information Center has been answering Marylanders’ questions about pests and plants. An arm of the University of Maryland Extension, the center provides free, research-based information to everyone from apartment dwellers with ants to avid gardeners with aphids. Its team of certified horticulturists has fielded more than a few odd questions among nearly a half-million phone calls and online queries. Below are just some that Director Jon Traunfeld insists his experts didn’t make up:


“How can I tell if a spider attacked me…or I just have a big pimple on my nose?”

“No, no, this thing I found isn’t dead…This is definitely some kind of living orgasm.”

“I bought a plant. It has a trunk and leaves…. What is it?”

“Can you defrost a turkey in the toilet?”

“Roots—you mean they are hidden under the ground?”

“Will ants return to my kitchen? I depend on them to clean up the cookie crumbs.”

“There is a mole in my closet, so I taped it in with duct tape. How do I get rid of it?”

“I have bees in my wall, so I stuffed a gasoline soaked rag up the wall. Tomorrow I’ll take a cigarette lighter and look up the wall.”

“An earwig crawled in my ear, but I couldn’t remove it because I had to go to the opera.”

“I can’t give you a good description of the problem because I’m naked right now.”

“Will the smell of this houseplant kill my kids?”

“I want to replace my Black-eyed Susans with euthanasia.”

“Should I fertilize my panties now or in the spring?”

“How often should one water his croutons?”

“Do you know about capturing mountain lions that kill people and replacing them with mountain lions that don’t kill people?”

“My tomato plants are not growing well. I fertilized them with…oh, what’s that fertilizer that starts with a ‘V.’ Oh, yeah, Viagra!”

“There is a turkey vulture in the woods near my house that knows when I go to bathroom. He flies over and watches me through the skylight. How do I get him to stop?”

THE CENTER WELCOMES your questions via its website. (The phone service has been discontinued.) Visit

Maryland Today is produced by the Office of Marketing and Communications for the University of Maryland community on weekdays during the academic year, except for university holidays.