Neighborly Garden News
Let’s plant more trees!
A recent study published from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology purports that planting more trees may be one answer to global warming. Thomas Crowther, a climate scientist from the institute, has calculated that by planting 1.2 trillion trees, on the planet’s available land, we could rid our atmosphere of two-thirds of the excess carbon. Mr. Crowther, and his team believe that this is a low-tech approach to a real-life solution. The important part is to start now, in your local area. He suggests planting native trees in your yard and helping support and protect the trees within the community. This simple approach would work whether your yard is in New England or Hawaii.
Supporting and/or donating to organizations that promote efforts to reforest and restore the earth’s tree canopy is another way to help. On Earth Day 2018, The National Forest Foundation launched its program to plant 50 million trees. The U.S. Forest service has provided a matching grant, for every dollar donated will equal one planted tree. (nationalforests.org) Plantabillion.org is sponsored by the Nature Conservancy and their pledge to plant a billion trees around the world.
Start by planting your own tree. Choose a tree that will also be one to have the maximum capacity to store carbon, provide habitat for wildlife, and provide shade. The Arbor Day Foundation has an online tool using your zip code for recommendations arborday.org. Keep in mind space and height requirements, particularly if there are any overhead lines nearby. Or consult with your arborist/landscape professional who can guide you, and offer choices based on your situation.
Always choose the healthiest specimens; look for any wounds on the trunk, or broken branches. If the tree is in a pot, tip it out to inspect the roots. You don’t want roots that have been circling for room around the pot. I know sometimes it is tempting to go with a bargain tree, and hope it will grow out of its problem, but it may not, and it’s more practical to start with a good candidate.
Circling roots aren’t good
The most important aspect of tree planting is not to set the tree too deep. If you examine the lower tree trunk, you will notice the trunk begins to flare out to meet the roots. The beginning of the flare needs to remain above ground. Keep in mind the tree will settle down into the planting hole as you tamp in the soil, and water it. It’s better for the tree to be slightly high, and settle into the hole, then to go too low after you water it in. Before you dig any hole, be sure you call dig safe, (811) to check for underground lines.
Tree Planting Diagram
Most young trees take 2-3 growing seasons to become established. The loving care you expend on them during those first years will reflect on how well they develop later on. Even after the third year, if you are having a tough growing season, it’s good to water the tree during hot and dry spells, and especially reapply yearly mulch within the tree ring. Mulching the tree ring; three inches away from the trunk, in a circle 3 feet wide, will help conserve water, keep the roots cool, and help prevent mechanical injuries to the trunk from lawnmowers and string trimmers.
December’s ‘to-do’ list:
As I begin writing this last newsletter for 2019, where I reside, we still haven’t had any lingering snow. Yet, in 2018, we already had a few inches before Thanksgiving. What the winter of 2019-2020 will bring for us is anybody’s guess; let’s hope for good snow cover, and not many ice storms! I’ve pretty much finished up any outdoor garden chores: plant pots and tools are stored away, the gardens are cut back, and garlic planted and mulched. Now is the time for all gardeners to recharge our energies for the next gardening season! Thank-you to all of the ‘Countryside Corner’ readers; Happy Holidays; best wishes for healthy and happy gardening in the New Year!
Don’t forget to insert stakes along the edges of your driveway to mark the areas to be plowed before the ground freezes. This helps the person clearing your snow to do their best job, minimizing damage to your lawn, and garden beds.
Visiting family for the holidays? Countryside can provide ‘home check’ services while you are away. Our detailed checklist allows us to track the operating systems of your house; that the furnace is working, all entry points are locked, no leaks have occurred, sump pumps working, lights are not burnt out; all the essentials that keep your home comfortable and safe. Please contact our office for more information. 413.458.5586.
Hungry rodents and rabbits are just waiting for snow cover, to begin snacking on your trees and shrubs. Protect trees from rabbits using hardware cloth or steel mesh with 0.5” diameter holes. The barriers should be 48” tall, and have about 6” buried to prevent burrowing. I advocate using snap traps to kill voles and mice; it is a very quick and humane demise. Mice are hosts to the black legged tick, the vital link in the Lyme disease cycle. They are looking for warm winter homes, like inside your house, right now! Set traps beneath boxes or buckets around the exterior foundation, as they like to creep into these dark places. Voles are notorious for gnawing on lower stems of roses, shrubs, and trees, while they are hidden under snow. They also find bulbs and fleshy roots of perennials very tasty.
Install deer fencing before the snow falls to limit their access to your garden. Browsing from deer escalates during the winter when natural food becomes unavailable. Herds of hungry deer can destroy trees and shrubs in just a few days. There is still time to apply deer repellent spray to your vulnerable plants. Deer are nocturnal feeders; we usually only see the aftermath of their browsing behavior. Repellent sprays give you 24/7 protection. We offer this service—please contact us if you wish to protect your plants from deer over the winter.
Protect lavender plants under an ‘umbrella’ of evergreen boughs. This helps keep crushing ice and snow off their vulnerable crowns. They prefer to be on the dry side, and covering them with a layer of cut evergreens (Arborvitae, Spruce, Pine, or Hemlock) helps Lavender overwinter successfully.
Do a ‘once around’ tour of your garden and yard, to catch anything you may have left out. Terra cotta and ceramic planters are susceptible to cracking during wet and freezing weather; store them in a dry area over the winter. Cover vulnerable shrubs if they are in the way of snow falling off the roof, to help prevent them from impact damage.
Now that trees and shrubs have dropped their leaves, you can assess what pruning needs to be done. Winter is the most favorable time to prune most species of woody plants. It’s a good practice to do light pruning yearly, than a drastic pruning periodically.
Check the houseplants that you brought inside during the fall, for signs of insects that may have hatched out. A good ‘shower’ in your tub or sink will wash off anything crawling around. Stationary insects like mealy bugs or scale insects, will require more effort to get rid of them. Alcohol on a cotton swab is a low tech method, but you can also use Safer’s brand insecticidal soap, or a systemic type granular insecticide. Repeat applications according to the label directions for the plant pest.
If you have any leftover seeds from your planting ventures, left over flower and veggies seeds can remain viable for several years if they are stored well. Seal them in Zip-loc bags, and keep them in a cool dry place. A snap-lid container in the fridge would work well.
Need help getting ready for winter? Give our office a call today. 413 458-5586.
Your backyard has a secret
Backyard soils can lock in more planet-warming carbon emissions than soils found in native grasslands or urban forests like arboretums, according to Carly Ziter, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The results of her research were recently published in the journal of Ecological Applications.
Those of us who have backyards generally don’t think of them as ‘nature’, or as especially beneficial to the environment. But at least in this case, the things we enjoy for ourselves are also helping the community at large. Ms. Ziter conducted her research by sampling the soils among the backyards of Madison, WI.As cities look for ways to mitigate the effects of global warming, urban green spaces are offered as a potential solution. Green spaces can reduce temperatures in cities where paved surfaces magnify hot weather, and they can capture storm water to reduce flooding as climate change leads to increasing rainfall in some parts of the USA.
Previous studies have played down the role suburban and urban backyards had in benefiting the ecosystem. Larger spaces like parks and campuses were naturally viewed as having a greater role. Ms Ziter’s study sampled over 100 sites, which varied from Forests and grassland, to open land like parks and golf courses. She also took soil samples for residential lots; of which only a portion was a yard.
The results of the study pointed to forest ecosystem soils being better at absorbing water runoff, and open and developed land (like backyards and golf courses) are better at sequestering carbon.There wasn’t a precise reason why this occurs, but the way we manage our yards; i.e. by mowing, may be a factor. Marco Keiluweit, assistant professor of soils and the environment at UMass Amherst, says, “Carbon storage as an ecosystem service can’t be just reduced to soil carbon,” “You also have to factor in the carbon above ground. If you have a forest ecosystem you probably have similar amounts of carbon locked up in trees.”
Based on the results of this study, having a fractured ecosystem, like those found in urban and suburban areas still provides benefits to the community. It showed that establishing a green area adjacent to a developed space may act as a buffer to any negative effects impervious surfaces may cause. Keeping our green spaces, big and small, and minimizing pavement are helpful first steps in promoting a healthy environment.
Every year the Greenhouse Growers of America choose their favorite new introductions for the next season. Here are a few showy annuals you may like to try in 2020.
Impatiens, ‘Beacon’, Downey Mildew of Impatiens has been a huge scourge the past few years. Look for the new disease resistance varieties next year when you plant shop! Beacon has high resistance to Plasmopara obducens, the cause of impatiens downy mildew. Beacon offers season-long color in the shade like the garden impatiens we know and love.
Beacon ‘Violet’ Impatiens
Cleome, ‘Crème De La Crème’, Cleome is growing in popularity due to its deer resistance and great summer performance. ‘Crème De La Crème’ is a bright, vibrant selection with rich, deep-purple flowers that bloom all summer for a fireworks-like display in the garden. The striking variegated foliage is a standout in pots or the landscape.
Cleome ‘Crème De La Crème’
Cosmos astrosanguineus, chocolate cosmos ‘Black Forest’ has a dark burgundy flower with a white stripe that contrasts well against light-green foliage. Blooms July-October.
Cosmos astrosanguineus ‘Black Forest’
Imaptiens, New Guinea ‘Roller Coaster Hot Pink’ has beautiful double flowers that sit atop dark-green foliage. Plants are vigorous with strong garden performance. They work well all summer long in beds or containers.
New Guinea Impatiens ‘Roller Coaster Hot Pink’
Zinnia, ‘Profusion Cherry Bicolor’ is a new color in the Profusion series of zinnias from seed. It is a non-fading color that will really brighten up your garden. Extremely heat and drought resistant, all Profusion zinnias are good performers in the landscape and containers Profusion zinnias compact habit and flower quality combined with vigor and exceptional disease make this a workhorse for your garden.
Zinnia ‘Profusion Cherry Bicolor’