June 2021


Stewartia blossom

Life get really busy sometimes and gardens get neglected. This has happened in my yard this year, but my garden has not neglected me. I was able to take a breath, and a walk, and found the garden has gifted me beauty and kindness in its offering of June blooms even without my close attention to the plants. Rain has fallen, sun has shined, and weeds have not overtaken very much. Perennials have produced and some annuals have reseeded defying this lax gardener.

I took first notice of the Japanese Stewartia, (Stewartia pseudocamellia) tree in the front yard as it began to flower. As the common name implies, Stewartia is native to Japan. It is a smaller tree with white, camellia-like blossoms along the branches. The each flower only last a couple of days, but more buds will open over a few weeks’ time extending the display. This is the most flowers I have had yet on this ten-year-old tree.

Gloriosa Daisy (Rudbeckia Hirta) is listed as a short-lived perennial and a reseeding annual. I can’t tell which is true as I have them pop up in various places as well as in the original spot. These originally migrated by seed from the neighbor across the street that had them growing in the cracks of her walkway. She said if they were that determined to grow there, she would let them. The birds love the seeds in the fall and obviously ‘deposited’ some in my yard. I love the random color patterns on the various different plants. They make good cut flowers for grand-kids to create arrangements and their sturdy stems even survive the ride home to bring a bouquet to their mom.

Around the back the Rose Campion (Lychnis Coronaria), was a mass of magenta flowers and grey, fuzzy leaves outgrowing its intended spot while keeping the weeds at bay. Thank you, Rose Campion for working so hard when I didn’t. This plant is another short-lived perennial or biennial that sets copious amounts of seed creating new plants which are easily moved to more desirable locations. They look great planted in mass drifts. I cut them back after the flowers fade, leaving a few to make seed for scattering in barren spots. I have been known to toss these seeds out the car window in areas that could use a little love and color.

The bumblebees were loving the pale pink flowers of the None So Pretty also called Catchfly, (Silene armeria). None So Pretty is a reliable reseeding annual in my yard. The seed hitched a ride in a plant gifted from a garden mentor over twenty years ago. She told me “Once you have it, you always will” while speaking of the dainty plant. Sure enough the next year her seeds grew from the soil included with the hosta she shared with me the year before. This is a testament to the large amount and viability of the seed production of this Catchfly. It is called Catchfly due to the sticky sap produced on the underside of each flower thought to catch flies, although I have never seen any insects stuck to it.

The pale-yellow hollyhock by the back door always makes me smile. It is in the driest spot in my yard with the worst soil yet it still grows tall and loaded with blossoms. It survives and shines calling me back to the garden and welcoming me into the morning light. History recalls hollyhocks as the perennial used to plant around the outhouse since it grew tall and wide. Visitors did not have to request the location of the ‘facilities’, just look for the hollyhocks.

Coral bells are an extremely reliable and long-live perennial that needs very little care. Its round-lobed leaves create a mounding base, excluding weeds and competition for nutrients and water. Long flower stems rise up from the base holding the tiny bell-shaped flowers. Humming birds and bees of all kinds feast on the nectar contained. they have a very long bloom time of a month or more, only needing to prune out a few stems which fall over.

Last year I planted four Borage, (Borago officinalis) plants in the vegetable garden to attract pollinators as I had read borage was good for them. Boy were they right! The bees and other pollinators flock to the blue, dangling flowers. It also reseeded this year without any assistance from me. I have not watered, nor weeded and the bed is full of borage plants, calling far and wide for insects and humans to take a look at its beauty. The flowers are edible and can be used in salads or as a garnish.

I find it comforting to know a time away from the garden did not end in disaster or mass amounts of work. My garden survived without me, and welcomed me back in its best way possible.

See you in the garden,

Carol

American Lady on Viola Flower

“In early June the world of leaf and blade and flowers explodes, and every sunset is different.” – John Steinbeck

June is always a month when there is an explosion of the new and a little fading away of certain things. Spring wildflowers have had their day and now the flowers and fruits of summer are arriving to take their place. Viburnums that just a little while ago were lending the air a sweet fragrance are now full of developing fruit. Crabapples and wild cherry are full of green fruits while flowers like yarrow, June blooming magnolias, winterberry, milkweeds and whorled loosestrife are just in bloom. Trees are full of leaves and the sky is a clearer blue so when foliage and skies meet, it is a striking contrast.


June blooming magnolia flowers appear after the leaves are fully out
Native tulip tree

American cow wheat, Melampyrum lineare, is a native annual wildflower that has interesting tubular white and yellow flowers. This small plant appears along dry woodland edges and is partially parasitic, stealing nutrients from the roots of certain tress, especially native birch.

Cow wheat flowers

Yarrow, an introduced wildflower, is attractive to many pollinators and butterflies. After years of not seeing a variegated fritillary, last week I finally came across one in a power line right-of-way that was exclusively feeding on yarrow flowers that were abundant there.

Variegated fritillary on yarrow flower

Whorled loosestrife, Lysimachia quadrifolia, also native here in Connecticut, has leaves that are whorled around the stem, and star-like yellow flowers that dangle in between. The leaves are covered with small dark pits on the upper sides.

Whorled loosestrife

Whorled loosestrife flower

On the home front, lantana, salvia, petunias and violas are among the annuals that draw a lot of butterfly and bee activity plus hummingbirds visit lantana and annual salvias as well. A golden northern bumblebee, Bombus fervidus, visits certain flowers including the flowers of a new variety of Buddleia called ‘Miss Violet’.

Spiffy golden northern bumblebee

On a hike I came across a colorful geometrid moth called the hollow-spotted plagodis. Caterpillars of this moth are large loopers and can be found feeding on several trees but preferring Betula species like sweet birch.

Hollow- spotted Plagodis moth

On the same hike there was the sound of a newly fledged bird calling for some food from its parents. I tracked it down among a large stand of invasive mugwort to see what kind of bird it was. Closest guess- pine warbler. I left it alone so mom or dad could give it its next morsel.

Fledgling warbler-likely a pine warbler

On a walk along a land grant property in Manchester, there was an old  Carpathian or English walnut Juglans regia featuring a stout trunk with striking deep, vertically fissured bark. The bark was light colored and the dark fissures made it appear outlined.

English walnut

Dog vomit slime mold can be found on wood chips or mulched areas, usually after heavy rains. Usually it seems to appear overnight as the fruiting stage begins and can be a yellow or orange color.

Aptly named dog vomit slime mold on top of wood chips

Gray tree frogs can be heard trilling day and night. They are frequently found here at home resting on patio furniture, trees, shrubs, water faucets, inside watering cans and many other places they have found suitable for hiding during the day. They often rest on leaf upper sides on trees or shrubs. The one below was on a grape leaf.

Other things of interest are galls of all types on tree leaves and twigs, including the oak apple gall made by a small wasp. The larva feeds inside the gall and emerges as an adult from there.

Oak apple gall
Very tiny oak apple gall wasp just emerged from its gall

There are so many interesting things going on for those of us blessed enough to wait or look for them. The excitement never ends. I agree with the sentiment of Henry David Thoreau, who loved observing and becoming part of his surroundings in nature- “This is June, the month of grass and leaves . . . already the aspens are trembling again, and a new summer is offered me.”

Pamm Cooper

During the spring, many homeowners notice changes or problems arising in their gardens and landscapes. Throughout May, the Plant Diagnostic Lab received many samples and emails of evergreen plants such as junipers, arborvitae, cedars, and boxwoods for diagnosis. Phomopsis Tip Blight on conifers and Volutella Blight on boxwood are two common diseases seen this time of year. Homeowners tend to notice symptoms in the spring and early summer when conditions are wet and damp and conducive for disease development.

Phomopsis blight is caused by the fungal pathogen Phomopsis juniperovora. Plants that are commonly affected include juniper, cedar, cypress, and arborvitae. Most infections occur in April through early June and in the fall but can occur throughout the growing season on young foliage during wet and humid conditions. Symptoms first appear on immature tissues about 3-5 days after infection. Older, mature branches are resistant. After infection, small yellow spots can be seen on the foliage. Eventually, shoot tips will turn a reddish, brown color after the fungus has entered the xylem.

B1 phomopsis juniper Bruce Watt bugwood.org

Infected branch tips on juniper. Bruce Watt UMaine. bugwood.org.

Over time, cankers will form at the base of the blighted shoots, appearing as a gray band. These cankers can girdle stems less than 1 cm in diameter. Black pycnidia, or tiny fruiting structures, form on killed tissue 3-4 weeks after infection. During wet weather, yellowish conidia, or spores, are extruded from the pycnidia and spread by wind and rain splash. The pathogen can remain on the host and continue to spread spores for up to 2 years when environmental conditions are favorable.

Volutella blight on boxwood hosts is caused by the fungal pathogen Pseudonectria buxi. Symptoms begin in spring as poor vigor and leaves turning light green to straw or tan colored. Leaves turn upwards and tend to remain attached to the branch. This key observation can help distinguish Volutella from boxwood blight, which causes rapid defoliation. Additionally, distinctive black stem streaking and cankers are signs of boxwood blight. Volutella can cause sunken lesions on the stems and plants may eventually lose bark.

B2 Volutella blight L. Borbas

Volutella blight symptoms. Photo by Lillian Borbas, UConn 2021

B3 Straw colored leaves stem lesions L. Borbas

Straw-colored leaves attached to branches. Sunken stem lesions. Photo by Lilian Borbas, UConn 2021

B4 Black stem streaking Mary Ann Hansen bugwood.org

Black stem streaking on a boxwood diagnosed with Boxwood Blight. Mary Ann Hansen. VPI & State University. Bugwood.org

On the undersides of leaves, Volutella will form distinctive orange to salmon-colored sporodochia (fruiting bodies) in moist and humid conditions. The pathogen is spread through rain splash or contaminated tools and is commonly associated with plants that are stressed. Maintaining plant vigor and utilizing the cultural controls outlined below can help manage this disease.

B5 Sporodochia boxwood Bruce Watt bugwood.org

Sporodochia on boxwood leaf. Bruce Watt, UMaine. Bugwood.org.

Management recommendations

For both Volutella and Phomopsis blight, control options are similar. When growing plants susceptible to these diseases, preventative methods, proper planting practices, and cultural controls are important for management. Proper site selection can discourage infection, for example, well drained sites with proper light exposure and air circulation. Ensuring that plants are properly spaced will reduce humidity and moisture around the foliage. Make sure the plant’s mature size is considered when planting. Properly irrigate and fertilize based on the needs of the plant and planting site. Do not water with sprinklers or overhead irrigation as this will encourage prolonged leaf wetness. Avoid letting weeds or other vegetation grow close to the plants. Excessive watering or fertilizing can make the plants more susceptible to infection. Avoid shearing, wounding, or pruning plants in wet, humid weather as this will aid in disease spread.

Regularly check your plants for signs of the symptoms described. If these symptoms are observed, cultural practices should be implemented first. Remove all infected tissue during dry weather, cutting 3-4 inches back from the damage. Disinfect tools between plants and cuts with 10% bleach or 70% isopropyl alcohol. Discard or burn the infected branches as they can be a source of disease. If the plant is heavily infected, it may need to be removed. Consider choosing plants that are more resistant or not susceptible to the disease.

Fungicides may need to be applied if infections become severe and these cultural controls are exhausted. However, many fungicides are used preventatively and should only be used after cultural controls have been tried. They are often only effective if followed by this management and applied before new growth begins in the spring. Whenever using fungicides, always read and follow the label for information on proper rates and application times.

Lillian Borbas

Everyone loves the summer, but it is even more special for a gardener as we get to grow the plants we love! Times of excessive heat like we are experiencing now can make things very difficult not only for the gardener, but also for the plants. Although intense heat is detrimental to many of our crops, excessive heat early in the season can make it particularly hard to start a garden.

ML 21 Sprinkler

During heat waves, watering regularly becomes much more important. Photo by mrl2021

At this time of year, most plants do not have a very well-established root system. Many people do not plant their gardens until after Memorial Day here in Connecticut, even though mid-May is generally the last frost free day. Newly transplanted plants cannot handle intense heat – even if you are watering them. They simply do not have the established root system needed and wilt in the hot sun. The top layers of soil dry out rather quickly, and deeper roots are necessary to find the moisture. 

Seed starting can be particularly problematic at this time as well. Remember that seeds need not only proper temperature, but proper moisture. Seeds are generally planted within the first few inches of soil at most. This layer dries out rather quickly, so keeping the seed bed consistently moist during germination is a daunting task. With both transplants and seed starting, I will generally wait until after a heatwave has passed.

There are a number of crops that do not do well in hot summer heat. Most of the Brassicas despise the heat. These crops include cabbage, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, kale, etc. Peas and lettuce also do not like the heat. The best thing to do is keep these plants watered (more on this below), or planted in partial shade. Another option is placing a shade cloth over these plants to reduce the sun and lower the temperature. Some light does pass through, but they are not out in the intense sun.

Some garden victims are our planters, flower pots, and hanging baskets. Any type of container generally dries out rather quickly. They are above ground and many times dark colored. Both contribute to rapid drying out of the soil inside. Sometimes you can buy special soil or add components to the soil to prevent this rapid dry out, but you can expect to give more watering attention to containers during heat waves. Once a day watering may be necessary, though time consuming. Many of the commercial nurseries have automatic watering systems to take care of their stock while it waits to be sold. Containers should be watered until you see water flowing out the bottom. Be careful as severely dried pots will have soil pulled away from the sides and water will flow out the bottom immediately. In this case, a slow hose drip for an extended period of time may help, as will additional soil added to the pot.

ML 6-21 Flower pot

Containers of all kinds are particularly prone to drying out. Photo by mrl2021.

Although we normally think of it as a weed preventer, one of the easiest ways to prevent our soil from drying out is a good layer of mulch. You will need to put on a decent layer because a thin little layer does not do much. I put on at least three inches of mulch or more. People wonder what type of mulch is best, but I say use what you have available. Mulched areas tend to need to be watered less due to the moisture retention so make sure to take this into account when you are watering.

ML 21 Rhubarb

A well-m.ulched rhubarb plant. Photo by mrl2021

Regular water in is essential to keep our crops in good shape. This can be harder to do than you think. One trap I have been caught in in the past was believing the weather forecast. I remember one year where we were supposed to get significant rain each day. I thought, “Why water when it is going to rain?”  Well it did not. The next day it was the same story, and this went on for almost a week. My poor plants were wilting and miserable by this time. It is not good to stress the plants like this. And if you are not paying enough attention, it can be too late to fix! My rule is to water when the plants need it regardless of the forecast (unless 100% rain is predicted). Our plants need about one inch of water per week. Too much can contribute to rot and fungal diseases. Too little and our plants will languish. You can measure the amount of water being put down with a good rain gauge.

ML 21 Rain gauge

One of author’s rain gauges. Photo by mrl2021.

It is best to water in the morning. Evening watering keeps the plants wet and can invite fungal problems, and slugs love the moisture! Watering in the hot mid-day sun can cause water droplets to form on our plants and burn them when the sun’s rays hit. I have found this is particularly problematic with cabbage. In the early morning, before the heat of day, is best. The problem is that many of us go to work at that time! I set the hoses up the night before and then turn on the spigot when I wake up, and turn off before I leave. Another option is using a timer. There are many manual and digital timers out there. I generally get a bit nervous with these as your water must remain “on” for them to work. Should something fail, water will be gushing all over until you come home. I do know many people who use and like them, so I guess I am just being paranoid. 

I am going take this time to remind everyone to get a good soil test. Not only will you be able to dial in your nutrient requirements, but you should be able to find out what type of soil you have.  You will need to adjust your watering based on your soil type. Sandy soils will tend to dry out much quicker than any other type. Clay soils tend to hold water and can become water logged.  Adding humus will improve the quality of both soils.  

My last bit of advice is to not forget about you! Drink water throughout the day when it is hot.  Too many times I have come in feeling great about the work that was done, but not feeling very good physically as I did not drink enough. It is easy to focus on the work and forget about ourselves. Take frequent breaks! Try to minimize the time spent outside at the hottest part of the day (afternoon around 2pm). Try and follow the shade and work on that part of your garden if possible. The early morning and the late evening are generally much cooler, although you won’t have as much time. Wear sunscreen and/or protective hats and clothing. Above all, find a nice comfortable chair placed in the shade and in view of a beautiful flower garden. Add a cup of lemonade or iced tea and you are all set! 

Matt Lisy

If you are looking to continuously supply your kitchen with a variety of interesting and healthy fresh vegetables then succession planting definitely has a place in your garden. In its simplest form, succession planting is just growing the same or different crops one after another in the same spot. So, for instance, after your quick-maturing radishes are harvested, one could plant bush beans and after their harvest, a late summer crop of lettuce.

radishes

Harvest radishes then plant a crop of beans or other quick maturing vegetable.

Another succession planting technique is to make several sowings of the same vegetable at regularly timed intervals. Typically salad greens are planted this way because realistically it is not that easy to use up 30 heads of lettuce in a single week so it would probably make more sense to have smaller, more manageable harvests maturing every week or two. I also use this method with my pickling cucumbers. Try as I might, I cannot seem to thwart those nasty, bacterial wilt-carrying cucumber beetles so I plant more cucumber seeds every 3 weeks or so and keep the newly germinated seedlings under a row cover until they start blossoming.

squash-4

Row covers are set over newly planted cucumber seeds and left on until blossoms form.

To make the most of space and increase yields, two or more crops can be planted simultaneously in the same bed. This works well with crops of different heights and maturation dates. Baby beets or early turnips can be planted in beds with Brussels sprouts; quick maturing lettuces or other salad greens with corn, or even at the base of trellised peas or beans.

Single plantings can be made of the same crop with different maturity dates. For instance, one can plant early, mid, and late season varieties of corn, potatoes or cabbages at one time for a longer, extended harvest.

Succession planting can be as easy or as intricate as you want it to be. For more complex plans, it is important to become familiar with the cultural requirements and varietal characteristics of the vegetables or herbs to be grown. When coming up with a plan, first make a list of all the crops you want to grow. Use gardening catalogs, books, websites and seed packages to find out important plant information like how early in spring the seeds or plants can go into the ground, the number of days from seed sowing or transplanting until harvest, space requirements, and the plant’s tolerance to frost.

Another consideration is how long the plants produce for. Are they plucked out of the ground, like carrots, providing an empty space to plant another seeding or transplants into? Will a secondary crop be produced after the main harvest? For instance, some species of broccoli will continue producing side shoots well into the fall. Kale and Swiss chard will continue to grow new leaves throughout the growing season.

kale & chard

                                            Kale and chard can be harvested throughout the growing season.

Indeterminate types of tomatoes will continue producing after the determinate ones are spent. Another consideration when growing tomatoes is how you plan to use them. Determinate varieties stop growing once they set flowers while indeterminate ones continue to grow foliage and produce flowers until stopped by frost or disease. So the determinate varieties will produce fruit that ripen all at once and this is very useful if the harvest is to be canned or frozen.

Tomatoes mulched with grass

Grow a selection of tomato varieties for a longer harvest window.

One also needs to take into account about when the soil can be worked in the spring, the approximate dates of the last and first frosts of the season, and about when the soil freezes and the harvest season comes to an end. Despite its relatively small size, there can be a two week or more difference in seasonal variation between southern and northern Connecticut. Typically, last frost is anticipated around mid-May and the first frost can occur anytime after mid-September. Most of us experience a growing season of at least 120 days.

It is a really good idea to compile this information into a planting chart or notebook. Then you can come up with initial planting dates, harvest times, and dates for planting your successive crops. Leave room for notes as pests and weather conditions may alter even the most carefully made plans. Also, comments from previous growing seasons are useful both when deciding what to grow again and also deviations from stated days to harvest.

notebook

                                                    Keep notes on varieties, planting dates and harvest times.

Keep in mind that the dates to anticipated harvest assume that seeds are sown or transplants set in the ground at the recommended planting time. With succession planting, seeds and plants are added throughout the growing season. Weather conditions and the angle of the sun greatly affect the rate at which vegetables grow and mature.

During cooler springs, pea seeds planted two weeks apart may mature within a week of each other because plants grow faster as the weather warms and the days lengthen. The opposite is true at the end of summer with cooler weather and shorter days. Cabbages which would typically mature in 50 or 60 days, may take 70 days to form a head as the number of hours of sunlight each day decreases. This is one reason why keeping records is important.

A few crops like radishes, carrots and spinach are always direct seeded into the garden but others like summer squash, cucumbers, lettuces, Chinese cabbages and kale can be either directly seeded or started in pots and transplanted into the garden. I have noticed a few local garden centers have been selling young transplants in late summer for second plantings. Why not try your hand at starting a few seeds in early August for transplanting into the garden to fill any areas left bare from harvest or mishap?

Maintaining a fertile garden soil and supplying plants with adequate water is crucial for successful succession plantings especially if tighter spacings and double croppings are being used. Any plants or seeds being planted during the heat of the summer will require extra watering.

Succession planting is a great way to make the most efficient use of garden space and also to provide a delicious, varying menu of vegetables for the dinner table. Give it a try and I am willing to bet it will open a whole new way of planning your home vegetable garden.  

Dawn P.