Countryside Corner Neighborly Garden News
Issue 66, October 2017
Pine eating beetles found on Long Island!
Southern Pine beetles will soon lose their eponymous name, and be called ‘Pine beetles’, as they steadily invade the north. In Long Island, New York, 15,000 trees have already been felled. Climatologists have confirmed our worst fear; warmer winters have caused the beetle to make our northern forests it’s new home. Our winter weather is no longer cold enough to keep them at bay.
Even though our average temperatures have only inched up by a degree over the last five decades, our coldest nights, which would kill off the beetles previously, are no longer cold enough to do this. Our coldest nights have warmed by almost 7 degrees, in this time period.
Pine beetles are now routinely found in New Jersey, New York, and parts of New England. We can expect their area of infestation to grow northward as this warming continues; so, by 2020 swaths of forests up the Atlantic coast to Nova Scotia will be threatened by this insect.
Predictions indicate that by the middle of this century 40,000 square miles of Pine forests will be vulnerable to the Pine beetle.
These beetles have long been a dreaded pest of the Southern Pine forests. Their method of destruction is to tunnel through the tree bark and consume the cambium layer; the living tissue that supplies trees with water and nutrients. As the tree dies, the needles gradually turn bright red.
Unfortunately, previous attempts to manage forest fires may have unintentionally made the situation worse, leaving the forests too overgrown. Trees already under stress from competing with each other for available water, sunlight and nutrients, have shown to be very susceptible to the beetle onslaught.
Steps to bring the Pine beetle under control include thinning the woodlots; even healthy stands of trees. This leaves the remaining trees more able to withstand a beetle attack. Suppressing an ongoing beetle attack before it reaches an epidemic stage is vital, according to researchers. In Southern areas trees are quickly cut down and sold as salvage trees. This has proven to be a sustainable strategy for the South. However, in the North, we don’t have an equivalent industry, and this increases the cost to manage our forests.
As our climate continues to warm, the beetles will lay claim to more of our northern forests.
October’s ‘to-do’ list:
Fall garden cleanup is a multi-level task that often stops and starts according to our weather. The big push is to remove fallen leaves and plant debris. Plan on collecting at least some of the leaves to be shredded and composted into leaf mold, a free alternative to peat moss, it is a superb soil additive that will increase the water holding capacity of your soil.
Reduce winter damage caused by rodents by clearing away turf and weeds from the base of fruit bearing trees and shrubs. Wrap the stems or trunks with hardware cloth (a kind of wire screening) to keep critters from gnawing the bark.
Falling leaves mean it’s time to clean out your gutters before winter. Clogged gutters can create ice dams over the winter; which often leads to leaky roofs and big headaches.
Garden clean-ups are an important step in keeping your beds and plants disease free. Remove any organic debris from plants known to be susceptible to fungal and bacterial problems; Peonies, Roses, Tall Garden Phlox, and Lilacs are all healthier if we clear out their faded and/or blotchy plant material.
You may thin out specimens of Lilac, Spiraea, and Forsythia, for a more pleasing shape, and better blooms. This involves removing entire branches right down to the base, not cutting back the branch to make it shorter. Thinning allows more sunlight to penetrate dense shrubs, and provides for increased air circulation; a good way to minimize potential fungal problems.
You can still plant spring blooming bulbs. They actually prefer cooler soil temperatures to initiate root development. As a general rule of thumb, bulbs should be planted at a depth equal to 3 times their diameter. If you’ve never planted bulbs before, you can safely experiment with any kind of daffodil. They are pretty much deer-proof, rodent-proof, and fool-proof. Here is a link to our bulb supplier: http://www.springdisplays.com/Home
Leave the foliage intact on your ornamental grasses; they provide much needed winter interest, and many kinds of birds enjoy snacking on their seed heads. The additional foliage also acts to insulate the crowns and offers a bit more winter protection.
Need a hand with fall clean-up? Thinking about screening out the deer this winter? Give our office a call to schedule your fall and winter services.
New Avenger weed killer is ‘nice to nature…not to weeds!
Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the world today. It is the active ingredient in ‘Round-Up’ brand weed killer. ‘Round-up’ is one of the most commonly used lawn and garden herbicides in the United States; but, it’s primary use is within the agricultural sector. Nearly all the corn, soy and cotton grown in the US, is treated with Glyphosate. Glyphosate kills weeds by blocking essential proteins responsible for plant growth. Over 1.4 billion pounds are used world-wide every year.
Specific GMO’s or genetically modified organisms have been genetically engineered to tolerate Glyphosate exposure. Seeds will produce plants that will not die from an application of Glyphosate, allowing farmers to spray entire fields without their crop plants being affected. This revolution in agriculture boosted Glyphosate use, in the United States, from 11 million pounds per year, to over 300 million pounds per year in 2012.
Where does Glyphosate go after it is applied? Unfortunately, there is little information about Glyphosate residue in humans; as Glyphosate is not included in the US government ‘s monitoring for residues in food, blood and human tissues. However, US Geological studies have shown that waterways in 38 states have tested positive for Glyphosate residue in their rivers, streams and wastewater treatment plants. Fortunately, only minute amounts were found in groundwater. Chemical interactions within the soil structure cause Glyphosate molecules to bind very tightly to soil particles. But, this particulate matter can stay in the atmosphere for a long time before it is eventually dissolved into water; Glyphosate is found in about 70% of rainfall samples. Trace amounts of Glyphosate have been found in 90% of soybean samples. There is no study of the long-term effects of Glyphosate residues on humans.
This being said, Countryside is now offering an alternative to Glyphosate herbicide application; we are utilizing the ‘Avenger’ weed killer product. ‘Avenger’ is a citrus oil based product which meets the strict standards of the ‘Organic Materials Review Institute’. The active ingredient is D-limonene, found naturally in more than 300 kinds of herbs, edible plants, and fruit. D-limonene is extracted from the rinds of citrus, and utilized in many types of cleaning products: soap, shampoo, detergents, mouthwash, etc., it is an excellent de-greaser. It’s the natural de-greasing properties that makes ‘Avenger’ so effective against weeds. D-limonene works to strip away the waxy cuticle of the weed plant, subsequently dehydrating the weeds and killing them. ‘Avenger’ is considered comparable in efficacy to ‘Round-Up’ brand Glyphosate herbicide, in trials ‘Avenger’ has been shown to actually work faster, and be more effective than Glyphosate. After application, dying can be seen within two hours, and sometimes faster depending on the weather. Unlike Glyphosate, treated areas can be re-planted approximately four hours after application. Pets and children may enter treated areas as soon as the spray has dried. ‘Avenger’ may also be used during cool and cloudy conditions; allowing a head start on weed control vs Glyphosate.
‘Avenger’ weed killer is recommended for control of unwanted broadleaf and grassy weeds around buildings, fences, landscaped areas, golf courses, school playing fields, patios, sidewalks, kennels, dog runs, and other animal enclosures. Larger, more mature weeds, may require a second application of ‘Avenger’. It is highly bio-degradable, and considered practically non-toxic to birds, fish, and mammals. ‘Avenger’s’ patented formula fills the air with a fresh citrus scent, instead of nasty chemical odors. For more information about ‘Avenger’ weed killer please contact our spray program manager, Herb Severs.
Fall and winter gardening events:
With our gardens put to bed, and garden chores are winding down, it’s the perfect time to take in events at our local public gardens and greenhouses:
October 7-8th, the Berkshire Botanic Garden is hosting their annual Harvest Festival. This long running, family friendly event will showcase local artists and crafters, with zillions of kid’s activities, farmer’s market, educational workshops and demonstrations, as well as a plant, bulb and garden accessories sale. Proceeds from the event go towards sponsoring educational programs at the garden.
November 11th, 2017, Rooted in Place: Ecological Gardening Symposium, pre-registration recommended. 9-4pm at the Berkshire School, Sheffield, MA. This all-day program will focus on sustainable landscaping; environmentally sensitive approaches to gardening.
Smith College’s Lyman plant house is hosting their annual Chrysanthemum show November 4-19th. Not as widely known as their spring bulb show, (Spring Bulb Show, March 3-18th 2018) this exhibit is created in combination with horticulture students studying plant genetics. The range of colors, shapes and sizes of the Chrysanthemums will astound you. Don’t forget to tour the other houses while you’re there; each a different growing environment. There is also a well laid out outdoor teaching garden, which may have some blooms, depending on our weather. Look for the February blooming Daphne, it smells divine!
Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA is home to the Talcott Greenhouse, constructed in 1896, after the previous structure burnt down. (413 538-2116). Their Spring Flower Show is delightful, March 3-18th 2018. Talcott’s permanent collection includes many species of orchids, and cacti.
Fall is when our native grasses really stand out. Cooler weather, and shorter days bring out their outstanding fall colors, and cause the inflorescence to elongate and bloom. The benefit of using native grasses is that they are host plants to pollinators; many species of butterflies and moths utilize native grasses as a food source for adults and larvae. Native grasses are naturally drought tolerant, and can be used to stabilize erosion prone areas.
Eragrostis spectabilis ‘Purple Love Grass’ is a low growing tufted grass, that sends up a large inflorescence or airy panicles in the fall, creating a lovely purple haze above the dense green foliage. Leaf blades turn reddish-bronze in the fall. Grows 18-24” tall x 24-36” spread, requires full sun.
Deschampsia cespitosa “Tufted Hair Grass’ is a cool season grass, that will do most of it’s growing in the spring and early fall. Narrow, finely textured, leaves are topped with delicately branched flower clusters in late summer. Grows 2-3’ tall x 2’ wide. One of the few grasses that will grow in moist soil, and part shade.
Panicum virgatum ‘Switch Grass’ is considered a ‘warm season’ grass, and will lend itself to informal and formal gardens. It’s very upright habit can start out as a clump, but gradually extend its rhizomes to colonize sizeable areas. It grows best with heat, sun, and ‘lean’ soil types. Roots may reach a depth of ten feet or more. It is important to leave 8” of stubble to provide insulation over the winter. Height can vary, there are many beautiful cultivars. Grows up to 6’ tall x 3’ wide, depending on the cultivar.
Schizachyrium scoparium ‘Little Bluestem’ has dramatic deep red to burgundy fall leaf colors. The flowers have a silvery fluffy look to them, and will persist through winter. It is often used to transition between formal areas to informal or naturalized areas. Summer leaf color is bluish-green. This ‘warm season’ grass is a clump forming variety, and good for attracting wildlife. There are several good cultivars available. Grows 2-3’ tall, prefers dry conditions and full sun.