Fall Clean-up Tip: GRASSES: Cutting back ornamental grasses in fall can be harmful to them since freezing temperatures and cold snow lying on the crown on the plant can “hollow” them out. Grasses should be cut back in late March/early April once the threat of frost is gone and before new growth appears. If you want to tidy up your ornamental grasses, cut them back half-way in fall and leave the remainder of cutting back to spring. Leaving the grass during the wintertime also provides interest to the garden while preventing damage to its center.
The same technique should be used for maintaining Liriope (Lillyturf). Prolonged freezing temperatures can do damage to the crown of the plant, so it is best to leave the pruning until early spring when first signs of new growth appear.
Other ornamental grasses such as Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’) die back in winter but do look attractive in the landscape The same principles apply and pruning is best when performed in late winter/early spring.
I am often asked about how to eliminate certain pests from the garden, such as moles and grubs. This month’s post was contributed by a fellow blogger who has some knowledge about this very issue. Here are some helpful tips.
What this article addresses:
How do I eliminate grubs and moles?
How do I detect the presence of moles in his garden?
What are some humane techniques to remove moles?
When should I call a professional to eliminate moles?
What are some tips to deter moles from your garden?
Moles and grubs are the nightmare of beautiful gardens and perfect turf. An underground rodent, moles dig tunnels under the ground, forming mounds on the surface. Grubs live in the soil and feed on the roots of plants. Even if moles and grubs are not a direct nuisance to you, they can reap havoc on a garden.
How to Get Rid of Grubs:
Grubs are the larva of insects, especially Japanese beetle. This time of the year, grubs are found under soil surfaces, and feed on the roots of your lawn and landscape plants. Grubs are also a food source for moles; therefore, eliminating one pest can deter another.
Grub Removal Methods:
Milky Spore: Milky Spore is a bacterium, (Bacillus popillae), which is lethal to grubs of Japanese beetles. It is available in powdered form, and it works better when applied during late summer periods.
Nematodes: Beneficial nematodes (roundworms) are the natural predators of the microscopic world. One pouch of nematodes attached to a spray hose can be used to water your lawn and garden to kill grubs. It is most effective when applied after the soil heats up in the spring. Keep the lawn watered to allow the beneficial nematodes to work.
Note: Killing off grubs reduces the food source for moles and helps your lawn, but it does not guarantee that the moles will move on.
Detecting Moles in The Garden: Mounds of soil visible around the garden, with soil collapsing partially in some places are signs that a mole is present. Before declaring war on this small mammal, wait a few days to see if the animal persists. Moles are known to feed mainly on grubs and earthworms, so if your garden is poorly supplied with food, the invader will quickly leave your property once it discovers there is nothing desirable to eat.
If more molehills become evident, you can make the decision to chase these rodents from your garden. There are several ways of accomplishing this, many which can be found in stores or on the Internet, including traps, firecrackers, natural solutions and ultrasound. Some of these techniques are easy to implement.
How to Get Rid of Moles Naturally:
Once you have made the decision to get rid of the moles that disrupt your garden, you can choose one or more methods to deter them. Always consider respecting the environment and avoid inflicting bitter injury to these animals whenever possible.
Technique 1: Deterring Moles
Use Plants that Repel Moles: Some plants are noted to repel moles. Marigolds and some flowering bulbs such as onion, garlic, crown imperial lily, hyacinth, daffodil, or Castor bean can keep intruders at a distance thanks to their aroma. Place these plants into mole hills to help repel the unwanted visitors.
Anti-Mole Ultrasound: There are commercially available solar powered boxes emitting ultrasonic vibrations that are inaudible to humans but will disturb the hearing of moles. Some also produce vibrations. These anti-mole ultrasounds offer the advantage of removing many kinds of rodents. Remember to place these devices in different places wherever there is evidence of moles. These ultrasound boxes are commercially available, at between 20 and 40 dollars, depending on the model.
Stick and plastic bottle method: This simple technique has proven to be quite successful according to user feedback. Place a stick into the molehill and cover it with a plastic bottle, neck down. When the wind blows it will bang on the stick and produce vibrations that moles dislike. With the constant annoyance, your mole visitor may very well become disgruntled and move on. This well known tip does have its disadvantages (such as aesthetics) but with its simplicity of installation and success rate it is certainly worth a try! A similar method, the use of pin wheels placed near a mole hole, have also proven to be a successful approach.
Technique 2: Mole Elimination
If all else fails, metal traps are available in different styles. Before handling, wear a pair of gloves to avoid leaving a human smell on the trap. Locate the most recent molehill and arm the trap with a tension rod or wrench. Carefully cover the hole and mark the location. This method has proven successful at a low cost. Tunnel Mole Traps are designed for humane mole capture with two doors that only swing inwards to let the mole in but not out. After catching the mole unharmed, it can be released into another location in the wild. Simply bury the trap in the mole tunnel or hill and let the device do its work.
When to Contact a Professional:
The call to a professional may be the last resort if you cannot get rid of the moles on your own. This expert is perfectly equipped to hunt for and eliminate moles in your garden. Cost depends on distance traveled and materials used.
Author Bio:Vicki J. Stabile is a gardening enthusiast, involved in gardening at her home’s backyard for the past five years. Vicki loves to share her gardening knowledge with others through her blog, Patio Clinic.
Once mid-late spring rolls around, you may notice that some of your landscape plants are in need of some tender loving care. After the lack of snow in some parts of the northeast and prolonged frigid temperatures in the single digits this past winter season, certain plants have been more affected than others by the lack of insulation from snow cover and extreme cold. Another factor affecting the vitality of your plants could the abundant rainfall amounts hitting the eastern seaboard.
Birch trees are one species that the winter has especially taken a toll on. By this time in June, Birch trees should have pushed out most of their new foliage, but you may notice some bare branches and empty spots on your tree. If that is the case, gently scrape the bark or cut a tip off bare stems to see if there is any sign of green. If the cambium growing layer underneath the bark is green, give the tree a little more time to see if it will push out any new growth from those branches. If the layer below the bark is brown, remove the dead branch from the tree to help direct growing energy to where it is needed. Give the tree a good feeding (preferably a deep root application) and some time. The tree should gradually show signs of recovery and continue to regain its health.
Boxwood is another plant which has been affected by the recent weather abnormalities. If your boxwood is looking a little paler than usual with some yellowing in the leaves, it could be a sign of iron deficiency. The abundance of rain here in the northeast has literally “washed” away much of the iron in the soil. Iron chlorosis can develop under conditions that reduce the availability of iron to the plant, such as a combination of cooler than normal temperatures and poor root aeration or soil drainage due to constant moisture. To remedy the lack of iron, apply a liquid iron solution to the soil around your plants. Most supplements will work over time to restore the plant back to good health.
Hydrangea are another plant showing signs of winter damage over the past several years here in the northeast and over other parts of the country. If your Hydrangea is still showing bare stalks above new growth now in June, and stems appear dead, simply prune off the damaged wood to beneath the line of new foliage. As with most flowering plants, application of a plant food that is high in phosphorus in mid-late spring will encourage buds.
Routinely checking your garden in springtime can catch early signs of plant distress and help in avoiding more serious issues down the road. During springtime and throughout the ongoing growing season, early detection of plant issues is a worthwhile practice, After all, a little preventive care can go a long way!
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The Spotted Lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) is a new invasive insect that is native to China, Bangladesh and Vietnam, and introduced to Japan and Korea where it has become a major pest of grapes. Spotted Lanternfly primarily feeds on tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima) but can also feed on a wide variety of plants such as grapevine, hops, maple, walnut and fruit trees, which has posed a great threat to these industries. This invasive pest was first discovered in Pennsylvania in 2014 and has since been found in New Jersey, Delaware and Virginia. In New York. A dead insect was found in Delaware County in the fall of 2017. In 2018, insects were reported in Albany, Monroe, Yates and Suffolk counties. Following these reports, the DEC and Department of Agriculture and Markets immediately began extensive surveys throughout the area. At this time, no additional insects have been found.
The Spotted Lanternfly adult is approximately 1 inch long and 1/2 inch wide at rest. Immature stages are black with white spots and develop red patches as they grow to maturity. Nymphs are black with white spots that turn red before transitioning into adults. Spotted Lanternfly can be seen as early as April and adults begin to appear in July. Their forewings are grayish with black spots. The lower portions of their hindwings are red with black spots and the upper portions are dark with a white stripe. In the fall, adults lay 1-inch-long egg masses, which when first laid are are smooth and brownish-gray with a shiny, waxy coating. Older egg masses appear as rows of 30 to 50 brownish seed-like deposits in 4 to 7 columns on the trunk, roughly an inch long. Spotted Lanternfly is capable of jumping and flying short distances and is spread primarily through human activity. They can spread to new areas when they lay their eggs on vehicles, firewood, outdoor furniture and stone.
Attacked trees will develop weeping wounds which appear wet, while leaving a greyish or black trail along the trunk. The sap may give off a fermented odor and will attract other insects to feed, notably wasps and ants. To destroy egg masses, scrape them off, place them into alcohol or hand sanitizer and double bag. It is important to collect specimens of any life stage and report sightings of egg masses, nymphs, or adult spotted lanternfly to your local DEC or Cooperative Extension for further verification.
Plans are in place for the detection and prevention of Spotted Lanternfly in the New York area. Extensive trapping surveys will be conducted in high-risk areas throughout the state as well as inspections of nursery stock, stone shipments and commercial transports from infected areas. The DEC and partner organizations encourage everyone to be on the lookout for this pest.
Sources: Pennsylvania State University Cooperative Extension and NY State Department of Environmental Conservation
Fall is approaching and a common garden pest, the fall webworm (Hyphantria cunea) can become noticeable on trees, causing unsightly larval nests covering entire branches, resulting in stress to the tree and severe leaf damage. Fall webworm are caterpillars that weave loose webbing around the tree’s outer foliage while feeding on leaves, compared to tent caterpillars that appear in spring and build their more opaque nests within the inner crotch of the branches. The webworm caterpillar is approximately one inch in length with a light greenish-yellow body and black to reddish head. Adults emerge later on as white moths with dark spots on their wings.
The best way to eliminate fall webworm is to remove the infected branches immediately, before the larvae hatch and take over the tree. If the caterpillars have already left the nest, it is recommended to spray with an organophosphate insecticide such as Acephate (contained in Orthene or Sevin) or Malathion. Acephate is both a foliar and soil systemic which keeps on working 10–15 days after application. Malathion is a foliar insecticide which is also commonly used, but note that Malathion may leave a residue. The best proactive method of killing overwintering larvae is to apply a dormant oil in early spring while the tree is dormant. Dormant oil is a more natural solution and works by smothering and killing the overwintering eggs.
In the spring, adult moths emerge and deposit eggs, continuing the life cycle of the caterpillar. These caterpillars may go through as many as eleven growth stages before leaving the web.
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HISTORY: After may years of experimentation, Japanese horticulturist, Dr. Toichi Itoh, successfully created seven peony hybrids from a tree peony in 1948, which were known to became the first Itoh peonies. Itoh Peony are derived from a cross breeding between herbaceous and tree peonies, forming a stronger, longer blooming variety over its predecessors. Similar to tree peonies, members of this cultivar have large, long lasting blooms and strong stems that do not require staking. The deeply lobed dark green foliage on a 3-4 foot high by wide plant lasts all summer and into fall, making an attractive addition to the garden. Itoh peonies are also known to be more disease resistant and are not preferred by deer.
GROWING AND MAINTAINING: Itoh peonies prefer to be placed in full sun to partial shade in a rich, well-drained soil. Feed in spring with a low nitrogen fertilizer to promote blooms. Fertilization is not recommended in late summer to fall when the plant is going into dormancy. Once blooms have completed in late spring, Itoh peony can be deadheaded by removing spent flower stalks, leaving its attractive foliage to remain for the rest of the growing season. In autumn, once the foliage turns brown, cut back plants to about 4-6 inches up from the soil level. It is recommended to mulch around the plant to insulate the roots from freezing temperatures. Once spring comes around, your peony will emerge for another growing season. Itoh peony can also be divided in autumn as you would herbaceous peonies.
I discovered this wonderful peony a few years back and have enjoyed its beautiful, sturdy, and disease resistant blooms in the garden. You may find them to be a nice addition as well!
Ornamental Pear trees have been recently under attack from a hard to treat fungus known as Trellis rust. Originally from Europe, Trellis rust or European Pear Rust is caused by the rust fungus Gymnosporangium sabinae. The disease may present a serious health threat to members of the Pyrus species, including both ornamental and fruit pear types. Ornamental Pear trees have been popular trees planted for decades noted for their fast growth rate, tolerance of urban conditions, fairly compact shape and white blooms that appear in early spring. Unfortunately, hundreds of trees have been noted dying in Rockville Center and the disease has been spreading to the Nassau and Suffolk County areas of Long Island. The fungus has spread from the mid-western states to upstate New York and Connecticut over the past several years and seems to be getting progressively worse. According to horticulturists, part of the problem is that the trees have been over-planted, resulting in a rapid spreading of the disease.
Symptoms to look out for are yellow-orange leaf spots (see photograph), which develop into spores in late summer. The spores can be spread to other host plants by wind or to the roots if the trees are close enough together. The secondary host during the winter months is juniper, allowing the fungus to survive when the pear trees drop their leaves; hence, continuing the cycle in the spring.
If you spot damage on your tree, remove and destroy the infected leaves to prevent spores from spreading. If caught early enough, systemic and spray fungicides can be applied to inhibit the spread of the disease. Best preventive measures are to be alert in monitoring your trees, and when in doubt, call a tree professional.
The seasons have been shifting in the northeast, leaving many homeowners in much dismay when it comes to winter garden maintenance. Winter storms can hit late winter into early spring, causing more distress to plantings once they have experienced warmer than normal temperatures. As we await another winter storm, there are some precautions you can take to ensure the vitality of your landscape plants and protect them from possible damage.
SNOW WEIGHTED TREE BRANCHES: Most evergreen trees and shrubs can handlesnow build-up on their branches, but in the instance of a heavy snow, the branches may become weighted down. Certain Arborvitae are susceptible to the weight of snow pulling down on them and may have already experienced sagging branches. Further damage can easily be avoided by wrapping the branches together with arbor tie. The cloth tie cannot be seen from the outside, will prevent future damage from another snow, and the tree will look unscathed.
BROKEN OR DAMAGED TREE BRANCHES: Before an approaching storm, try to walk outside and inspect trees and shrubs on your property for any broken or damaged branches. If you do spot a damaged branch, tie the two split halves together by wrapping them tightly together with arbor tie. Start by wrapping the two halves tightly together and continue wrapping above and below the crack for extra support. If caught in time, the cambium (or growing layer) of the plant will repair itself and fuse the two parts of the damaged branch together. I have personally saved split branches on holly, azalea and arborvitae using this technique and the plants have recovered beautifully. Identifying these issues now and tending to them prior to the snow can mean the survival of your plant.
SNOW REMOVAL: While it is tempting to go outside and start removing snow from weighted branches it is also a good time to exercise caution. Under the snow-covered branches could also be a frozen layer of ice. Any manipulating of the frozen branches could result in easy breakage and permanent damage to your tree. A helpful tip is to very carefully dig snow from around trapped branches and allow them to spring back up on their own. Never shake branches with ice. It is best to let nature take its course and allow thawing to occur. The branches will gradually regain their shape as the ice melts preventing any harm to your landscaping.
SPRING BULBS AND SNOW: Just as your spring bulbs are emerging, a late winter snow storm in March can cause much distress and uncertainty. Besides having to tend with the snow, there is some reassuring news! While mulch protects dormant bulbs from cold, once they start blooming, a covering of snow will act as an insulator. The snow will help to hold in the natural warmth from the soil and provide protection. Once the snow is gone, you can continue to enjoy your bulbs!
As mentioned previously, plants are very resilient, and with a little care can bounce back and recover nicely after a major snow. With a March snow on the way, warmer days may not look promising at the moment, but Spring is right around the corner!
Hardscape elements can add much beauty as well as serving a function in your outdoor space. Creating a natural stone patio or walkway can add an extra dimension to your landscaping and can be accomplished in one to two days, depending on the size of your area. There are a series of necessary steps that must be followed in order to ensure the stability and lifetime of your project.
Before starting your project, clear your space of any grass, stone or debris and level the area as best as possible. There should be a slight pitch for water drainage, but no more than a five degree slope is recommended.
After leveling, construct a border for your walkway using a standard steel or plastic landscape edging. Lay a layer of landscape fabric to cover the area in order to keep out soil and prevent weeds from coming through. Use metal anchors to keep the landscape fabric in place. (Note: Steel Edging comes in 16 foot sections.)
Once the edging and landscape fabric are in place, install a 2-3 inch base for your stone to sit in. Here a 3/4 inch pea gravel base is being used. Rake out the gravel to create a level surface.
Now you are ready to lay down the irregular bluestone slabs into the gravel base. A recommended size for the bluestone slabs is approximately 2′ x 3′. Move the stones within the gravel to ensure they are level and comfortable for walking and push the gravel up around the edges. Your new walkway is now complete and ready to enjoy!
To construct an irregular bluestone patio, first clear the area of any grass or debris.
Level the area and install a base of three to four layers of RCA (recycled concrete) while tamping down after each layer is deposited. A solid layer of approximately four inches is recommended.
Afterwards, add a layer of clean sandbox sand and use a level to make sure the area is flat.
Once the base is fully prepared, using a stone saw, carefully cut and piece the irregular bluestone slabs together to fit like a puzzle. This can be a bit tedious but better to take your time. Once all the stone is laid, fully clean off any dust or debris and wash down the new patio with a hose and allow to dry. Once completely dry, it is time to brush polymeric sand into the grooves of the stone without getting any onto the surrounding area. The polymeric sand will form a permanent bond between the pieces of stone to complete your patio project. Wet down lightly with a spray nozzle and let set overnight. (Note: Polymeric sand hardens like a cement and will not come off the surrounding patio once set with water. Take caution when applying to ensure the area is clean of any remaining dust or debris.) Once these steps are completed your new patio is ready to enjoy!
Following these simple steps will help guide you into creating a welcoming patio or walkway for your landscape to enjoy for years to come. For other design and hardscaping ideas, be sure to check out my book A Guide to Northeastern Gardening, which isavailable on Amazon.