Living more sustainably has become a goal to many individuals who recognize that the earth’s natural resources are finite. There are numerous ways to lessen our impact invoking the three R’s of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. One relatively easy method of recycling is composting. And now would be the perfect time to start as May 1 – 7, 2016 is International Compost Awareness Week.

Up to one-third of a household’s waste could potentially be composted including food scraps, yard wastes and paper products. It has been estimated that about 70 billion pounds of food waste are discarded by Americans each year. That comes to about 20 pounds per person per month. So between 25 and 40 percent of food grown, processed and transported each year never gets eaten!

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Fruits and vegetables can be composted if not consumed. Photo by dmp.

According to www.feedingamerica.org, most of this is disposed of in landfills or by incineration. In fact, more food reaches landfills and incinerators than plastic, glass, paper or metal in municipal solid waste. When landfilled, the buried food breaks down in an anaerobic environment and methane is produced. Methane, as many of you are aware, is a potent greenhouse gas about 21 times more the global warming potential than carbon dioxide.

On top of the environmental cost and loss of resources that all our food waste is creating, we need to pay to have it removed from our property. Either we contract with private haulers or your city or town removes it paid for through your taxes. Many localities are beginning encouraging residents to compost their leaves and other organic wastes as both a cost saving tool and a way to amend lawn and garden soils.

While the optimal solution to this problem would be not to waste food and this should top everyone’s list, if food is going to be thrown away, as much of it should be composted and turned into a valuable soil amendment as possible.

Composting is simply the controlled process of decomposition of organic materials. Decomposition is a natural process. Any bit of plant or animal debris that falls upon the earth’s surface gets broken down and transformed by visible and microscopic creatures. Composting hastens this natural process by creating conditions that tend to accelerate natural decomposition the end result being a stable humus-like product that is great addition to most soils.

3 bin composter Haddam

3-bin compost unit at Middlesex County Extension Center, Haddam, CT. photo by dmp

Composting can be as simple or complex as one chooses to make it. The basic requirements for composting are a source of organic materials, air, water, microorganisms and a site for composting. The organic materials can be food scraps, leaves, grass clippings, spent plants, shredded newspaper or office paper, coffee grounds, tea bags, eggshells, manure, sawdust and spoiled hay. These organic materials may be layered proportionately according to how much carbon and nitrogen they contain. Decomposition is hastened when the amounts of carbonaceous material (brown) are balanced with high nitrogen containing organic matter (green). Many piles are started by using 2 parts green to 1 part brown. Technically this is referred to as the carbon nitrogen ratio and there are many online and written sources listing the ratios for a variety of organic materials. A carbon nitrogen ratio of 25 or 30 to 1 ensures faster decomposition.

Composter

Easy turn compost bin. Photo by dmp.

Typically natural rainfall keeps the pile moist but you may need to water it occasionally during dry spells. Keep in mind that most of the decomposition is done by soil microbes and they need oxygen and water just like all living creatures. The compost pile should be as moist as a wrung out sponge. If it seems dry, give it some water. If it is too wet, turn it to aerate and dry out a bit. A general rule of thumb would be to turn the pile every week or two initially.

Whether you make or purchase a compost bin or simply create a compost pile is up to you. Wire fencing or cement blocks are an inexpensive way to contain a pile. Locate your bin or pile not too far away from either the garden or the kitchen so food waste and garden debris can be readily added to the compost pile and finished compost will be conveniently located next to the garden. Facts sheets at www.soiltest.uconn.edu give greater details on the composting procedure as well as on the various types of compost bins available.

Compost is finished after 3 to 9 months when it is loose and crumbly and the original organic materials that were put in the pile are no longer recognizable. Using compost in the garden or landscape has many benefits. It adds organic matter to the soil which in turn increases the water and nutrient holding capacities of the soil. Compost improves the soil’s structure which in turn results in better plant root growth. Since the pH of finished compost is usually around 7.0, using compost also often eliminates the need to add limestone or wood ash to the soil.

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Topdressing garden bed with compost. Photo by dmp.

Depending on what organic materials were added to the compost pile, the finished compost will contain varying amounts of the nutrients that plants need. Manure-based composts would generally have higher nutrient levels than leaf- or food waste-based composts. After adding an inch or so of compost to your garden soil and mixing it into the top 6 inches of soil, it is a good idea to test the soil before adding any more fertilizer or limestone. Many gardeners tend to add copious amounts of compost to their vegetable and flower beds resulting in excessive levels of nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen which can pollute surface and ground waters. Conscientious gardeners want to supply their plants with enough nutrients to ensure productivity but not caused environmental or human health problems.

There is no time like International Compost Awareness Week to learn about composting and figure out how to incorporate it into your yard or garden. Apartment dwellers might want to consider indoor composting using worms. Yard-less residents may find that a nearby community garden would take their food scraps.

Dawn P

ribes odoratum upclose

Clove Currant, photo by C. Quish

I love a plant that come with a story. I know every plant someone ever gave me and the reason for such  a gift, or to commemorate a celebration, or maybe a mentor sharing a piece of their garden. My clove currant shrub has such a story.

During the 1990s I was seeking to improve my knowledge of perennials by taking a local gardening class at a little library in my home town. The two ladies imparting their wisdom were how we say, very experienced with growing just about everything, and very willing to share with those less in the know at the time. The last class was a tour of their properties of very well established gardens in sun, in shade and in between, with popular plants and some unusual ones. There was also a  large vegetable garden in the sunny back field filled with peas, onions, rhubarb and lettuce  pretty well along even though it was still April. They were very good gardeners with the know-how to grow vegetables as well as trees, shrubs and perennials. I don’t think they ever met a plant they didn’t like or knew how to grow and propagate.

As we walked the property, one spoke of each plant, noting its character, benefits and highlights. One arching shrub was near the back door of her house, in full bloom with yellow tubular flowers. I could smell it before I saw it. Wisps of clove filled the air, not too sweet or flowery, just enticing. Most in the class had never seen this gangling, somewhat messy shrub before, but the flowers and scent made me like it. Now at the driveway, the tour was concluding with the opportunity to take in the vistas they had created. I now realized the gardens I was touring were across the street from my husband’s deceased grandmother’s house and stated it out loud. The instructor and owner smiled, remembering how 40 years before, she was welcomed as a new neighbor by my husband’s grandmother, with a plant dug from her own garden. It was a piece of the clove currant. Grandma Ferry said she should plant it near the back door, as was hers, so you could smell its heavenly scent when in bloom.

A few weeks later, after the clove currant finished blooming, the instructor came to my house with the gift of a piece of her clove currant bush. She said the plant has history with our family and she needed to share it with us. I planted it near the back door, and now 20 years later it has grown large and is still going strong to tell its story another day.

Scroll down for cultural information.

ribes odoratum 4

Clove Currant, (Ribes odoratum)

Clove currant’s botanical name is Ribes odoratum. It is a native plant in the central and eastern United States and hardy to zone 4. Its size is manageable,  growing to between 6 and 8 feet tall and about as wide. Responds well to rejuvenation pruning and cutting off suckers as is tends to spread from its roots. It is soil adaptable preferring a pH of 6.1 to 7.8 and does best in full sun, taking some shade, too.

Leaves are interesting with 5-lobes on long petioles and a blue-green in color. It is a deciduous shrub in the same family as gooseberry and currants and does produce an edible black berry in July, but only on female plants. Clove currant is dioecious, with male and female plants. If berries are wanted, plant at least one male and one female for pollination purposes.

The Ribes genus are the alternate host for the disease white pine blister rust. There were quarantine laws put into effect in the early 1900’s to eliminate all plantings of any currants or gooseberries in gardens and in the wild, to protect the lumber industry. It proved to not work and goes unenforced in many states. White pine blister rust can cause chlorotic spots on the tops of the current leaves and orange pustules that develop on the underside of leaves, as is typical of rust fungi. Leaves will drop prematurely.  Other leaf spot diseases my occur, but none are common problems with Clove Currant.

-Carol Quish

 

heliotrope Harkness II

Monarch butterfly on Heliotrope

With a noticeable decline in imported honey bee and native pollinator populations, there is an interest in gardening to support these insects. While native plants are a better choice for native pollinators, any good source of nectar and pollen will help attract pollinators. The benefit of using native plants is their durability in the New England landscape.

When choosing plants for pollinators, consider the species that are visiting your property already and choose plants for their seasonal or year- long activities. Observe those pollinators that are in your area but maybe not visiting your property, and then choose plants that may attract them during their foraging seasons.

One of our early native pollinators is the Colletes inaequalis, also called the polyester bee. These handsome, small, ground- nesting bees can be active as early as March and prefer large sunny areas that have sandy soils. They are important pollinators of early blooming native plants. Females forage for both pollen and nectar which they put in a neat little “plastic” bag deep in a tunnel that they make in spring.  The egg is laid in the bag aid above the semi-liquid mix, and the larva will feed on that until pupating. Next spring the new adults will emerge

plasterer bee spring 2011

Native Colletes inaequalis ground-nesting bee, an early spring pollinator

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There are many species of bumblebees here in Connecticut. Native bumblebees hibernate every year only as queens and every year they must establish a new colony, which will work to support the new queens born that year. Because of the long foraging period of bumblebees- early spring through early fall- provide season –long nectar and pollen sources in the garden or landscape. In the wild, bumblebees visit early blooming maples, dandelions and blueberry. Later on they visit Joe-pye weed, goldenrods, boneset, asters and other late-season native bloomers. They are of a more hardy lot that many other bees, so they are found out and about on chilly, windy days, even during periods of rain. Bumblebees “cheat” when obtaining nectar from some flowers, such as salvia. Short-tongued bees will cut a hole at the base of the flower to obtain nectar on long tubular flowers.

blue beard flower and bee II

Bumblebee Bombus ssp. on Caryopteris, or bluebeard

Sphinx moths are also native pollinators and are considered the most efficient of moth pollinators. While some fly during the day, many fly at dusk and during the night. These hawkmoths pollinate many plants with their exceptionally long proboscis including catalpa and horse chestnut. If you know these pollinators are in your area, plant corresponding larval host plants for the caterpillars. Honeysuckles (Lonicera) are both a good nectar source for the moth and a host plant for two clearwing moth caterpillars.

catalpa flower 6-30-15

Catalpa flowers are pollinated by sphinx moths as well as other insects. Nectar guides turn from yellow to

There are many beetles as well as flies that pollinate flowers. While beetles may chew on flower parts as well as pollen, they still pollinate many flowers, especially goldenrods, pawpaw and daisies. Flies are attracted to flowers that smell like carrion- pawpaw, skunk cabbage and trillium among others. Little flower flies- syrphids- visit many native wildflowers. They are often confused with wasps because of their body shape and coloring.

long horned flower beetle on steeplebush flower July 19, 2009

Long-horned flower beetle on steeplebush

skunk cabbage flower and bee late April 2013

Normally pollinated by flies, this skunk cabbage flower is visited by a honey bee

Crabapples are a good source on both nectar and pollen for many pollinators, including beetles, flies and butterflies. Migrating spring butterflies can be found nectaring on crabapple blossoms, and ruby-throated hummingbirds usually arrive in time to nectar on the blossoms. Willows are early spring bloomers that attract a variety of pollinators- flies, beetles, bees and others and are host plants for several butterflies including the Mourning cloak and Viceroy.

An excellent draw for pollinators are native cherries- black, pin and choke species. Not only bees are found on the flowers. Butterflies are strongly attracted to native cherry blossoms, and several, such as the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail will Lay eggs on the leaves of smaller cherry trees.

tiger swallowtail on Joe- Pye 8-3-11

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly on spotted Joe-pye weed

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Eastern tiger swallowtail caterpillar on black cherry

 

One of the best plants to attract bees is the Giant Blue Hyssop Agastache foeniculum. This long- season bloomer attracts native and non- native bees and has an attractive aroma as a bonus. Include long-season bloomers like alyssum, coneflowers (Echinacea), Lantana, Cosmos, Heliotrope, Buddleia and clovers. Late summer flowers such as goldenrods, Joe-pye, boneset, Stonecrop sedum, Queen Anne’s lace, Caryopteris, Salvia , and petunias will provide food for migrating butterflies bumblebee queens, and many other insects. Allium flowers are a wonderful attractant for all types of pollinators. And don’t forget milkweeds. Whether native or non-native, a good nectar source will not go unnoticed. Double-flowered varieties are usually bred for the flower at the expense of pollen and nectar, so avoid these plants in a pollinator garden.

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Stonecrop ” Autumn Joy” sedums are excellent for attracting pollinators of all kinds

The following link is an excellent source of plants suitable for Connecticut’s native pollinator.

http://www.ct.gov/caes/lib/caes/documents/publications/fact_sheets/entomology/planting_flowers_for_bees_in_connecticut.pdf

Happy gardening! And may pollinators increase in both their populations and their good works in the wild and in the residential landscape.

Pamm Cooper                                            All photos copyright 2015 Pamm Cooper

 

Late March and early April in Connecticut are the time of year that we gardeners dream about through the long, cold winter. The temperatures are on the rise, the days have lengthened, the soil is workable, and even if we do receive a snowfall it generally doesn’t last for long. The Lenten Rose (Hellebore) has bloomed and the crocus, grape hyacinth, daffodils are in their glory, soon to make way for the tulips which will follow. Yellow daffodils paired with the deep purple-blue of the grape hyacinth is one of my favorite combinations.

The pussy willows have come out and the forsythia is in bloom which means that it is the anecdotal time to put down the crabgrass preventer. The pre-emergent herbicide needs to be applied and watered in before the crabgrass seeds that were dropped last year germinate. Please visit our page on Crabgrass Control for more information on this yearly bane of homeowners.

Pussy Willow

For me this time of year is about planning this year’s vegetable garden and starting the growing season. It starts with plotting out the area that we have allotted for our vegetable garden (its 15’ x 25’) which includes four raised beds that are 3’ x 5’ each. There are many ways to do a garden plan. The simplest way, and the way that I started some years ago, is to put pencil to paper and sketch out a rough drawing.

The next step up is to use graph paper to plot out the actual footage available. This is the manner that I have progressed to over the years. With pencil, ink, and colored pencils I draw the placement of this year’s plantings. I refer to prior year’s plans so that I can rotate varieties among the beds as much as possible although I don’t have a very large space. There are several established perennial plantings, such as asparagus, strawberries, raspberries, rhubarb, and chives that do not get rotated.

Chives

These crops are placed around the perimeters of the garden, mostly to the east and south, where they will not block the sun from other plantings. The asparagus spears are just starting to emerge, the chives are growing, and the rhubarb was a perfect size to divide and replant.

A recent post on our UConn Home & Garden Education Center  Facebook page shared a link to many vegetable garden planners that can be found on-line ranging from the very simple to those that allow you to enter your actual plot size, vegetable varieties and succession plantings. There is even an app!

So, plan in place, it’s time to start planting. There are so many crops that enjoy a cool weather start such as peas, spinach, kale, arugula, radishes, beets, bok choy, and carrots. I have been working with my daughter Hannah on some plans for garden beds that her early education class will be working on this spring. In doing research on some classroom-appropriate experiments I came across one that compares the growth rate of seeds germinated (prior to planting) vs. un-germinated (direct sown). I usually soak beet seeds before they are planted but this year I germinated all of the varieties that are planted in the early spring, laying the seeds out on a damp paper towel and covering them with another damp towel.

Pre-germination

Just a side note, did you know that each beet ‘seed’ is actually a hard shell that encloses 3 seeds? As they sprout you can not only see three distinct seedlings (the row on the left in the image below) but the colors reflect the variety of beet also, whether red or yellow.

2 Days Later

Within days most of the seeds were well-sprouted and I planted them in the garden in their selected spots. It will be interesting to see if this gives them a head-start and if Hannah’s class gets similar results. They will also be running an experiment that starts seeds in solutions of differing pH levels from base to acidic to see what seeds prefer. If you would like to know the pH level of your garden soil and what your crops require then a soil sample to the UConn Soil Nutrient Analysis Laboratory.

One thing to keep in mind when planting is done as a classroom activity is the length of the available growing season. There is little point in planting vegetables that will need care and be ready to harvest during the summer months when school is not in session. Our choices therefore were cool-weather plants that would be ready to harvest before school dismisses for the summer. Among these are snow peas that will mature in 60 days, Indian Summer spinach (35 days), Little Finger carrots (65 days), lettuce, arugula and spinach (35-40 days), Early Wonder beets (60 days) and Cherry Belle radishes that will be ready to harvest in just 22 days.

Just think about it. In a little more than a month we can be enjoying a freshly picked, tasty salad that is the harbinger of more good things to come!

Susan Pelton

All images by Susan Pelton

 

It did happen quite a while ago, in the seventeenth century in fact, but it’s a pretty interesting story. Tulips are native to Turkey and were first introduced into The Netherlands in 1590 by a botanist named Carolus Clusius.  He obtained seeds from a high ranking friend in Turkey and began growing and breeding them.  Among these were some so-called ‘broken’ tulips in which the dark color of the petal was broken by varying patterns of light to white streaks, stripes or flames.  As people learned of these unique new tulips, their value increased dramatically.  In the early 1600s, the Dutch were experiencing a strong economy and many people had assets to invest.  The rare and coveted tulips were often obtained by the trading of an entire business or fortune on the speculation that the value would increase.  A single bulb is reported to have sold for 3000 guilders, equivalent to approximately $1700 today.  The broken tulip variety known as Semper Augustus was the most expensive tulip sold during the tulip craze and is pictured.  The artist is unknown; the image is from https://en.wikipedia.org.   Tulipsemperaugustus

People recognized that these beautiful tulips were a temporary treasure…they observed that after a few years of blooming, the bulbs producing the broken tulips became weak, resulting in first smaller flowers and shorter stems but eventually no flower at all and bulb death. Because of this, many paintings of the striking blooms were commissioned during the peak of ‘tulipomania’ in the 1630s to preserve their beauty.

As it turns out, the beautiful streaking in the petals (and the decline of the plant over time) was and is caused by a virus. The most common is tulip breaking virus (TBV) but there are several others that cause similar symptoms.  It wasn’t discovered that a virus was the cause until the 1930s but by 1637, it was discovered that the tulip breaking trait could be passed from one bulb to another by grafting and the market for the broken tulips crashed, along with many investors’ assets.  Some describe this whole scenario as the first stock market.

How does the virus cause streaking or other patterns in the petals? The virus results in the lightening or darkening of the thin surface layer of cells by the inhibition or over production of pigments called anthocyanins in certain areas.  Only dark colored tulips can be ‘broken’ by the production of light colored areas due to the virus.  White and yellow flowered tulips can be infected but symptoms only occur on leaves as mottling because the petals don’t contain any anthocyanins (red to blue to purple pigments).  TBV is distributed throughout the world wherever tulips are grown but today is most prevalent in southern Europe.

As mentioned, the virus(es) can be spread from one bulb to another via grafting. They are also vectored or spread by several aphid species. Because the virus does result in a loss of health for the plant, many of the original ‘cultivars’ are now extinct. There was also a lot of variability and unpredictability in the virus-infected plants’ patterns making the purchase of a bulb not yet in flower truly speculative.  Today many countries, including the United States, prohibit the commercial sale of bulbs known to be infected.  Plant breeders have developed many beautiful varieties using traditional plant breeding that have striking color patterns and variegations in the petals reminiscent of those famous ‘ancestors’ from the seventeenth century.  In closing, I’ll share a verse from the poet Abraham Cowley (1618-1667) regarding the love for the breaking tulips:

“The tulip next appeared, all over gay,
But wanton, full of pride, and full of play;
The world can’t show a dye but here has place;
Nay, by new mixtures, she can change her face;
Purple and gold are both beneath her care,
The richest needlework she loves to wear;
Her only study is to please the eye,

And to outshine the rest in finery.”

By J. Allen

Last week at the annual UConn Garden Conference there was a most diverse series of presenters. All had valuable insights into varied horticultural topics but I found the last talk most intriguing and thought provoking. It was by Dr. Jesse Bellemare of Smith College in Northampton, MA and his topic was Horticultural Insights into Plant Conservation and Climate Change.

Dr. Bellemare by Kevin Noonan 2016 GC

Dr. Jesse Bellemare speaking at the 2016 UConn Garden Conference. Photo by Kevin Noonan

Long time gardeners are well aware that changes are taking place in their yards and gardens due to the overall warming of the earth’s atmosphere because of the burning of fossil fuels. Plants are leafing out 2 to 3 weeks earlier, dandelions and forsythia are blooming in January, earthworm activity was noticed in my yard this February, tomatoes were still being picked the first week of November, exotic insect pests like the cross-striped caterpillar are moving in. I’ve been gardening for over half a century and when the changes I see are magnified over large food production areas in the U.S. and combined with prolonged droughts and greater numbers of extreme storm events, I can’t help but feel this does not bode well for our farmers or our food supply – but that may be a topic for another time.

Dr. Bellemare addressed the topic of managed relocation. Up until now, in order to preserve species, whether they be plants or animals, the present thought was to spread the news about how devastating manmade climate change will be and to try to convince decision makers to take steps to limit carbon emissions and also do our best to protect rare or endangered or other species with limited dispersal abilities. To my knowledge, this is not really working. So should we plant conservationists, researchers, plant lovers and gardeners just let some species become extinct?

I don’t think so and neither does Dr. Bellemare. He has been collecting data which has led to some surprising, yet not really unanticipated conclusions, and I would like to share them with you.

In his presentation he covered some information about species native habitats and how they disperse. Keep in mind that the three greatest threats to a species are habitat destruction, replacement by invasive species and climate change. According to Dr. Bellemare, anywhere from hundreds of thousands to more than a million species may become extinct due to climate change. Not only may these species be important from a biodiversity standpoint but what may they offer in terms of medicinal properties? We may never know.

A new conservation strategy proposed by Dr. Bellemare would be one of assisted migration or managed relocation. Basically this involves moving a threatened species into a new (usually more northern) region where it would be predicted to survive and reproduce. Critics worry about the invasiveness as well as less attention focused on native habitat protection. There is presently a heated, ongoing debate surrounding the Florida torreya, an endangered native conifer. The question is whether, as its native habitats are in decline, should this species just be allowed to die out or since it does well in more northern climates should it be transplanted and encouraged to reproduce?

Plant species that would be candidates for managed relocation tend to have a relatively small range usually in the southeastern part of the U.S. that was not affected by the last glacial period. They also have a rather limited seed dispersal ability and may be subjected to rapid climate change. These plants would not have time to naturally evolve so it falls on us humans to decide their fate.

A lot of these plant species are already being grown by gardeners, botanic gardens, college arboretums and other plant collectors. And I might add, successfully, despite their more southern origins. Many of these species have occurred as individuals in plant collections, arboretums and on college campuses. Some challenge their invasiveness potential but realistically most of the invasive species found in the northeast are from other countries and not southern parts of our own country. Plants prone to widespread distribution have pretty much already distributed their progeny over the past thousand years or so.

Also remember that the glacier that came down from Canada about 15,000 years ago wiped our most of our native New England flora and most of our present day flora migrated up from the south. So many of our plants already share a common biological and biogeographical history. According to Dr. Bellemare, this may lessen the threat of “unexpected and negative ecological interactions.”

A most interesting case involving climate change and the ability of a small-ranged plant species to naturalize in New England is the saga of the umbrella magnolia (M. tripetetala).

yg umbrella mag J Bellemare

Naturalized umbrella magnolias. Photo by Jesse Bellemare, Smith College

Dr. Bellemare and his lab at Smith College in Northampton, MA have been documenting both the locations of previously planted umbrella magnolias as well as their reproductive ability and success in as many locations as they could over the past few years. This species is native to southeastern United States and inland as far as Arkansas and Oklahoma. For the past 100 years or so, specimens have been planted in arboretums, college campuses, public gardens, and in private collections. Recent field studies by Dr. Bellemare’s lab have found naturalized populations in several Massachusetts sites. These sites have not just included individual trees that may have been planted 50 to 100 years ago but younger plants that have originated over the past 20 to 30 years.

What should we make of this? For one, it seems that the umbrella magnolia is able to reproduce under a wide variety of forest canopy scenarios – from wet, swamp maple habitats to shady conifers to more open revegetated pine forests. This may suggest that M. tripetala is able to naturalize across a broad range of habitats and environmental settings.

It is what is known as an adventive species – not native or fully established in a new habitat but may be locally or temporarily naturalized.

Although the umbrella magnolia is naturalized in many areas in southeast United States and westward through regions of Arkansas and Oklahoma, its natural expansion is limited but horticulturists have planted this species in many New England states over the past 100 years of so.

Most of these were individual specimens in arboretums, on college campuses, in public gardens or just on individual estates. Many survived and during the past 20 to 30 years it was discovered that they spawned reproducing populations of seedlings and young trees. When Dr. Bellemare looked at core samples, he concluded that reproduction of this species likely began in the last 20 to 30 years. Remember some of the original trees were planted over 100 years ago. What caused them to start reproducing?

Fruit of umbrella mag J Bellemare

Fruit of the umbrella magnolia. Photo by Jesse Bellemare, Smith College

The most likely hypothesis, espoused by Dr. Bellemare and like-minded colleagues, is that changes to our climate have allowed plants to produce seed and for favorable conditions for seed germination from these otherwise long-established horticultural specimens. Other researchers have found similar trends for other magnolia species on Long Island.

Given this information, what should we as gardeners do? I for one will be ordering more plants that are native to the east coast but maybe listed as marginally hardy to New England. One never knows whether their small purchases may add up to a big win for plant conservation.

Happy Spring!

Dawn

Mid March and warmer weather is descending upon us bringing a few pests currently, and some that will no doubt make a return. Inside our homes, the over-wintering nuisance insects have begun to come out of their hiding spots in attics and wall voids where they spent their winter dormancy. Now they are awake and clamoring to get outside to feed, mate and lay eggs on the their host plants. They fly to the windows and any lights trying to go outside. It is best to open the window and let them go or just vacuum them up. The list of nuisance insects which invade our homes in the fall, sleep off the winter, and awake in the spring are boxelder bugs, Asian lady beetles, leaf footed bugs and the brown marmorated stink bug.

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Boxelder bug, photo p.cooper

AsianLady.jpg

Asian Lady Beetles.

 

Leaf footed bug

Leaf footed bug.

brown marmorated stink bug on gazebo 10-21-15 Pamm Cooper photo (2).jpg

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, photo p.cooper

Other early season pests can be found in the vegetable garden. Asparagus beetle usually appears a few days after the first spears emerge. However now they are busy feeding below ground on the stems pushing their way up. If stalks curl around above ground, chewing damage by the adult beetle has happened below ground as the stalks were developing. Feeding on one side damages the developing cells, while the other side grows normally causing the distorted shoots. Not much can be done to correct the shape, although the asparagus is still edible, just funny looking. Scout the stalks and bed for the nearby asparagus beetles. Hand pick and squish any or spray with neem oil to reduce feeding.

asparagus beetle damage.JPG

There are two types of asparagus beetles, the common and the spotted.

Another early season pest is flea beetle. They get their common name due to the way they move or jump like a flea. They feed on leafy crops of spinach, lettuce and chard of the cool season crops, and love eggplant, tomato and peppers once the soil is warm enough to accept these transplants. Row covers over the plants will keep them off of the leaves. There is a predatory wasp which does parasitize asparagus beetle eggs. The wasp is metalic green and tiny, about 1/8 inch long. The Latin name of the wasp is Tetrastichus asparagi.

What insects are appearing in you area of the world?

-Carol Quish

 

 

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