Early Detection & Treatment of Spruce Needle Cast Disease

Some spruce trees, such as Colorado Blue Spruce may be susceptible to environmental stress. The recent pattern of milder than usual winters and cool spring temperatures combined with wet conditions in the northeast have favored development of a fungal disease known as “needle cast”. Early detection and proper diagnosis is important in the treatment of this fungal disease and to ensure the health of your tree.

Identifying Needle Cast

The best proactive means for preventing needle cast disease is to plant your Blue Spruce in the proper location and provide proper care. Blue Spruce prefer to be located in a well-drained soil in an area of full sun, meaning the plant should be receiving at least six hours of sunlight daily. A southern or western exposure suits this best. Prevent irrigation from directly spraying on the foliage of the plant. Constant moisture on foliage or over-watering can be a direct invitation for needle cast. Drip irrigation is recommended where possible, allowing the soil to dry between watering. Proper planting height is of course also necessary. Plant the tree at grade or slightly above the grade so that the root flare is visible. Do not plant too deeply. It is best that the lower branches have some air circulation above the ground.

The type of needle cast affecting Colorado Blue Spruce in the northeast is mainly Rhizosphaera needle cast (caused by the fungus Rhizosphaera kalkhoffii). While some browning and dropping of older needles in spruce is common, needle cast disease is noted by a distinct brownish-purple discoloration which appears on needles (usually towards the bottom of the tree) with the eventual death and dropping of older needles. Newer current growth may show no signs of the disease.

Advanced Needle Cast Disease

Should your tree show signs of early needle cast, it is treatable. Needle cast can be effectively controlled with fungicides containing chlorothalonil. For Rhizosphaera needle cast, two properly-timed applications per year for at least two consecutive years (sometimes three) are required for control. The first application should occur when new needles are half elongated (around Memorial Day depending upon location) followed by a second application three to four weeks after the first. The timing of the two applications should be the same for the second and third year. Since needle cast is fungal and spread through spores, removal of branches showing early signs can prevent further infection.

As mentioned in the beginning of this article, the best method of preventing needle cast starts with proper planning, planting and monitoring. Early detection of any kind of disease leads to better results and remedies any further issues down the road. These tips also apply to dwarf forms of Blue Spruce, such as Picea pungens ‘Globosa’ (Globe Blue Spruce).

For more gardening tips Visit my Author Page

A Guide to Northeastern Gardening: Journeys of a Garden Designer Landscape Design Combinations
Dream, Garden, Grow!-Musings of a Lifetime Gardener

Lee Miller@Landscape Design By Lee 2020. All Rights Reserved.

Best Wishes for a Happy New Year!

Wishing all of you, my readers, a wonderful new year filled with good health, prosperity and happiness. May your heart be filled with new hopes, your mind be open to new horizons and may the new year bring you promises for brighter tomorrows.

As we go through the upcoming year, may your gardens always be green and 2020 be everything you want it to be!

Thank you for being here, and always remember…“The gardening season officially begins on January 1st with a dream!”

For winter reading…Visit my Author Page  
A Guide to Northeastern Gardening: Journeys of a Garden Designer Landscape Design Combinations
Dream, Garden, Grow!-Musings of a Lifetime Gardener

~As Always…Happy Gardening and all the best for a very Happy New Year!~

Author:  Lee@A Guide to Landscape Design & Maintenance, 2020 All Rights Reserved.

Autumn Browning and Needle Shed on Hinoki Cypress

If the inner needles on your Hinoki Cypress (Chamaecyparis) are suddenly turning from a healthy looking green to shades of yellow, orange and brownish-red in autumn, there is little need for concern. Needle shed is all part of a natural process. Each year evergreens will produce new foliage in spring and part of the preparation process involves shedding their older foliage in the previous fall. Shedding of needles and foliage is a process that evergreens go through as a way of preparing for new growth once the weather warms. As the days become shorter and temperatures lower, evergreens go through a slight dormant period similar to deciduous trees and shrubs. Many evergreens such as Chamaecyparis (Hinoki Cypress), Thuja (Arborvitae), fir, pine, cedar, hemlock and spruce lose some of their needles every year and may go through a major shedding every three to five years.

Autumn Browning and Needle Shed Hinoki Cypress

To examine, look at your tree carefully. Older foliage is shed first so the losses should generally be from the inside out and not at the tips. Prior to shedding the needles appear from green to yellow, orange and eventually brown, remaining on the tree until the process is complete.  The actual amount of needle shed on the tree or shrub varies depending on the growing season, temperature changes and amount of rainfall, and can sometimes be sudden. Often the change is unnoticeable but generally the drier the season or more drastic the temperature change the more noticeable the needle shed, a natural cleaning process leading to new growth in the spring.

Hinoki Cypress Major Needle Shed Autumn

The sudden change in temperatures over the past couple of weeks here in the northeast has caused some of the Hinoki Cypress to go through a major shed. I do have concern over this particular Hinoki, which I have had for over twenty years. It does tend to get more yellowing/browning over the others, but normally comes back with a flush of new growth in spring. If desired, lightly brushing the inner portion of the plant will help to remove the older browned foliage. If concerned about any particular branches on your plant, scrape the bark with your fingernail down to the growing layer. If the branches are brown and brittle the area tested has met its demise. If there is presence of a green growing layer underneath the surface of the bark, the branch is indeed alive.

 Author:  Lee@Landscape Design By Lee, 2019, All Rights Reserved

Fall Gardening Tip: Pruning Ornamental Grasses & Liriope

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.

Dwarf Fountain Grass

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.

 Liriope muscari 'Variegata'

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.

For more gardening information and tips…

Visit My Author Page/Purchase My Books

A Guide to Northeastern Gardening: Journeys of a Garden Designer Zones 3-9

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Lee Miller@Landscape Design By Lee 2019. All Rights Reserved.

Garden Pests: How to Eliminate Moles and Grubs from Your Landscape

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.

Spring Maintenance of Birch, Boxwood and Hydrangea

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.

Winter Die Back on Weeping Birch

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.

Iron Deficiency on Boxwood

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.

Winter Die Back on Hydrangea

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!

For more gardening tips and design inspiration along with personal musings…

Visit my Author Page/Purchase My Books:
A Guide to Northeastern Gardening: Journeys of a Garden Designer Landscape Design Combinations
Dream, Garden, Grow!-Musings of a Lifetime Gardener

Lee Miller@Landscape Design By Lee 2019. All Rights Reserved.

Pest Alert: Spotted Lanternfly

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.

Lanternfly Life Cycle (Photo: Pennsylvania State Cooperative Extension)

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

Late Summer/Early Fall Pest Alert: Fall Webworm

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.

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Fall Webworm Caterpillar

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.

Hyphantria_cunea,_adult
Fall Webworm Adult Moth (Source: Wikimedia Commons Author TampAGS, for AGS Media)

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.

For more information on gardening tips and design inspiration, visit my author page or the links below.

A Guide to Northeastern Gardening: Journeys of a Garden Designer Zones 3-9

Landscape Design Combinations

Author:  Lee@Landscape Design By Lee 2018. All Rights Reserved.

Growing and Maintaining Itoh Peony

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.

Itoh Peony 'Bartzella' in Perennial Border
Itoh Peony ‘Bartzella’ in Perennial Border

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!

For more gardening tips and design ideas:

A Guide to Northeastern Gardening: Journeys of a Garden Designer Zones 3-9
Landscape Design Combinations

Author:  Lee@Landscape Design By Lee 2018. All Rights Reserved.

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