Neighborly Garden News
Be on the lookout for: the Spotted Lanternfly
The spotted Lanternfly, also known as the Lanternmoth, is neither a fly or a moth. It is classified in the insect order Hemiptera, closely related to cicadas, aphids and plant hoppers. This insect was first found in Pennsylvania in 2014, and has since spread to Delaware, New York, Virginia, and New Jersey. It has not yet been found in Massachusetts, however, an adult specimen was found near Albany, New York in September. Spotted Lanternfly is considered an invasive non-native insect in the USA. It is native to India, China and Vietnam, an it was detected in South Korea and Japan, just prior to being discovered in the USA. In South Korea, it is considered a highly destructive invasive pest of grapes and peaches.
This insect has been found on over 70 species of plants, including many crop plants and hardwood species. They prefer to feed and mate on Ailanthus altissima, commonly known as ‘Tree of Heaven’ which is also an invasive Asiatic plant. Unfortunately, the Lanternflies don’t stay on Ailanthus after mating; they disperse rapidly to lay their eggs just about on any other plant.
The adults and immatures of this species damage host plants by feeding on sap from stems, leaves, and the trunks of trees. Trees may be found with sap weeping from the wounds caused by the insect’s feeding. The sugary secretions (excrement) created by this insect may coat the host plant, later leading to the growth of sooty mold. Insects such as wasps, hornets, bees, and ants may also be attracted to the sugary waste created by the Lanternflies, or sap weeping from open wounds in the host plant. Host plants have been described as giving off a fermented odor when this insect is present.
UMASS extension services describe the insect as follows: adults are 1 inch long and ½ inch wide at rest. The forewing is gray with black spots of varying sizes and the wing tips have black spots outlined in gray. Hind wings have contrasting patches of red and black with a white band. The legs and head are black, and the abdomen is yellow with black bands. Both the immature insect and the adult are quite visually striking. Adults are especially so when they have been startled and expose the bright red coloration on the hind wings. When the adult is at rest, particularly on the trunk of the tree of heaven, their gray, spotted color may actually cause them to blend in with their surroundings. Freshly laid egg masses appear as if coated with a white substance. As they age, the egg masses look as if they are coated with gray mud, which eventually takes on a dry/cracked appearance.
If you see this insect or the egg masses, it must be reported. Even if you’re unsure, it’s better to launch an investigation to ward off this noxious pest, than ignore the possibility of an infestation.
For additional information, or to report a sighting of Spotted Lanternfly please refer to the following link:
November’s ‘to-do’ list:
Target areas where rodents and moles might congregate and do damage over the winter. Remove any heavy buildup of fallen plants and wet matted down leaves, attractive places for them to hide. (Pay particular attention to areas around house foundations!) If you’ve had severe rodent damage previously, you may have to put out traps or baits to reduce the population. Protect young, and thin barked tree species with hardware cloth secured around the lower trunk. This will help stop rodents from gnawing, and thus ‘girdling’ trees. When trees are girdled, bark has been mostly or completely removed around the entirety of the trunk, and can kill the tree.
Finish clearing out gutters before it snows. Clogged gutters create ice damns later in the winter; which lead to leaks and roof damage.
If you’d like to set up a living Christmas tree this year, dig a hole now before the ground freezes, and mulch the hole with straw covered with a tarp to keep the soil workable. It may also be helpful to stockpile some unfrozen soil to backfill the planting hole.
Protect your foundation shrubs from snow falling off the roof. Heavy snow and ice can flatten a mature plant in seconds. A simple wooden ‘teepee’ will provide a safe haven, and is re-useable year-to-year. Call our office (413.458.5586) if you’d like to have us make you a set.
Countryside Landscape & Design can help protect your home while you’re out of town. Our House Checking Service can help prevent costly repairs from faulty furnaces, frozen pipes, etc. We offer variable schedules, to suit your personal needs. Give our office a call today for more information.
Last call toscout out breakable garden items, and store them for the winter. Winterize your garden pond or pool; lift and store the water pump in a dry location. If you have pond fish, you may need to utilize a pond heater to keep the water from freezing over, so the fish won’t asphyxiate.
Don’t cut back your ornamental grasses! Leave them standing to provide habitat for wildlife and winter interest. Grasses with seed heads provide a snack for the birds; plan to cut them down to the ground in the spring. Pull or cutback any remaining annuals, but leave the seed-heads of those you wish to self-sow around the garden.
Continue to mow and rake up your fallen leaves. Create a compost pile if you don’t have one already, or bring your leaves to us for free, and we will compost them.
Hang out suet feeders to encourage insectivorous birds to keep scouring your garden for bugs. They will continue to hunt for insects, just beginning to hide for the winter, throughout your beds. Consider adding bird friendly shrubs for food and shelter throughout the seasons to your garden. Even if you feed birds, they still need a place to fly back to quickly, to hide from predators. Hawks in particular love to swoop down on bird feeders and snatch away unsuspecting birds. It is important to thoroughly clean and disinfect feeders before each feeding season. Birds require water throughout the year, adding a heater to your birdbath, can help with their survival through winter.
Lastly, now that we are not actively gardening, it’s a great time to do maintenance on your garden tools. Clean, sharpen, and oil the cutting blades on your hand and power tools. Apply linseed oil to the wooden handles of your tools to help prevent splintering of the wood. If you are handy, clean and sharpen the blades of your lawn mower, or send it out for service now, so it will be ready to use next spring.
We now offer ‘Auto Pay’, an option which means your bill will be paid automatically every month without you having to think about it! By setting up your account with your credit card, your bill will be processed the 3rd Tuesday of every month. This allows ample time to review your monthly bill before it is posted to your credit card. We also offer paperless billing via email. Give our office a call for details. 413.458.5586
Ice storms and trees; protect your home and yard!
Severe ice storms occur every year in the United States. The impact of these winter storms can be felt in property damage to homes and businesses, due to fallen trees. Damage to roadways, electric and phone lines, disrupt our community and cause dangerous, and sometimes deadly conditions.
Trees vary greatly in their resistance to ice accumulation. Particular characteristics such as: a broad crown, weak branch junctions; indicated by included bark*, decaying wood and fine twigs, increase a tree’s susceptibility to ice accumulation. *Included bark is bark that has become ‘ingrown’ between the trunk and the branch itself, forming an unstable connection.
In wide-spreading trees, (referred to as decurrent branching) the increase in lateral surface area can contribute to branch failure, as more ice can accumulate on these branches. Despite what you may think, the strength of healthy wood does not indicate the tree’s ability to withstand ice load as much as the structure of the tree’s branch junctions.
Juvenile and mature trees that have excurrent branching; fewer coarse branching, narrow crowns, and strong branch attachments are considered more resistant to ice accumulation, and less susceptible to breaking. Certain trees have excurrent branching when young, such as: Sweet Gum, and later develop decurrent branching.
Trees growing along property edges or street medians can be damaged in other ways. Edge trees accumulate ice along the open side, and can become very unbalanced, resulting in the tree tipping over. This is more common on shallow rooted species like Red Oaks, as opposed to more deeply rooted species, like White Oaks. However trees that may have been damaged during a sidewalk or street installation are very susceptible to uprooting due to the root disturbance.
Proper placement of trees and regular pruning can decrease a tree’s susceptibility to ice accumulation, and help reduce property damage. If possible, don’t plant tall trees where they will interfere with above ground utility lines. Branches that overhang structures should be pruned away from buildings, and monitored closely for hazards. Regular pruning from a young age will eliminate structurally weak tree branches. Our professional arborists can install cables to further increase a tree’s tolerance to ice accumulation. These cables could save your house! It happened to my family, and the only thing keeping a car sized branch off our roof was the cable.
After an ice storm has passed through, any hazardous trees and branches need to be removed immediately to ensure safety, and prevent any more property damage. It is very important follow best practices, and only prune damaged branches to the branch collar, and not flush cut them to the trunk or the obverse, leave long, unpruned branch stubs. These steps will help prevent weakly attached sprouts, and insect and disease problems down the road.
Evergreen trees enhance the fall and winter landscape. As a backdrop to fall foliage colors, or a windbreak screen through winter winds, evergreens are our beacons of green until spring returns. Adaptable plants, there is an evergreen for almost all growing conditions.
Pseudotsuga menziesii or Douglas fir is often grown as a Christmas tree; it has soft short needles, and a uniform growth habit when young. As it matures, Douglas fir will assume a pyramidal shape. Douglas fir does best with some protection from the wind, and prefers consistently moist soil. This native evergreen will grow to 40-80’ tall x 12-20’ wide.
Picea orientalis or Oriental Spruce is a graceful, slow growing tree with a narrow, semi-weeping habit. Lustrous dark green needles, are very short and densely set along the stem. Another feature: the colorful cones or flowers of the mature tree. Tolerant of poor, gravelly or clay soil, grows to 50-60’ tall x 10-15’ wide.
Pinus flexilis or Limber pine is a hardy native pine. Very cold hardy, it has dark blue-green needles, it prefers moist yet well-drained soil, can be grown on rocky slopes in full sun to partial shade. This slow growing evergreen tree will reach 30-50’ tall x 15-35’ wide at maturity.
Thuja occidentalis or Eastern Arborvitae has been bred to mature at varying heights, depending on the cultivar. This native tree is typically easy to grow, vigorous, and will tolerate a wide range of soil conditions, but requires full sun to grow into thick specimens. Soft, flattened, deep green needles, form a very dense natural screen. This quality makes Arborvitae one of the best trees for screening, and windbreaks. It is recommended to choose a named cultivar; and thus your desired height range, than the species, unless you truly want a 40’ tall living fence. Arborvitae grow 12-40’ tall x 4-15’ wide at maturity, depending on the cultivar.